By Sampurna Das:
With guidance from my teacher, I took up this lesser talked about issue as my project. In an attempt to understand the nitty gritty of sperm donation, I decided to visit an IVF center . My friend (19 years old), pretending to be interested in sperm donation, contacted the center. Initially, Â his offer was denied saying he was “under age” for donation. However, after an hour or so, the center personnel called back and inquired about my friend (yes, as probable donor!). He said that my friend (who legally was under age for donation) could donate sperms. There was however a condition to it, as he would be an illegal donor, he would receive lesser “payment”. Asking further if my friend would had to face any legal problems for such illegal donation, the man replied “Arey madam, half of the donation in India toh illegal hi he!”Â (Madam! Half of the donations in India is illegal!)
There are many health concerns due to which a particular age limit had been set, but who follows it? Even more shocking was the fact that the “infertile couple” demands the caste or regional specifications of the sperm donors. In certain sperm banks for convenience of the “couple”, sperms are labelled and kept differently based on ethnicity and caste of the donor. Caste and regional differences are seen even in sperms! Is this the way our country is trying to move towards development?
Moreover, what I have found out that due to this “illegal and premature sperm donation” by young donors, many samples are actually low in the sperm count. Thereby, lowering the rate of successful birth rates by artificial insemination. Moreover, these IVF centers don’t match up to the hygiene standards that needs to fulfilled. Government, though, is providing the sperm banks with enough funds but they are going for cheap, unhygienic means for their “petty interests”. Despite the stringent laws , illegal sperm donation is rampant in the country.
I was even more amused to see such banks recruiting personnel(s) to approach young boys to donate sperm; luring them with prospects of earning “easy money”. AÂ 19 years studentÂ of Delhi universityÂ revealed “I m a donor. it fetches me with easy money . I can now manage all my needs” ( his needs — cigarettes, pubs etc.)
Unlike US and other countries, sperm donation in India is still a taboo. I was told, in this context, in a rather hilarious manner as how “A boy in his graduation had to drop out of college because of humiliation he had to face when his friends came to know that he was a sperm donor”.
Social stigma, easy money and illegal means, I finally can summarize sperm donation into these three words. What actually is the provision (ofÂ ‘donation’) by a man, (known as a ‘sperm donor’), of his sperm, with the intention that it be used to impregnate a woman who is not his sexual partner. The social cause of the donation remains hidden, what sperm donation is to the donors, is a way of fulfilling their material needs. I would also like to mention the movie ‘Vicky Donor‘ which, in some way or the other, helped me to take up this topic.
An analysis of the sperm donation market in India and also globally points out that it shows both “economic aspect” as well as “non-economic” aspect. Sperm donation as a market phenomenon converges both “profit oriented” behavior as well as “social relations” Â -Mark Granovetters (Embeddedness theory). The project has made me aware of not only the process of sperm donation but also helped me in knowing the underlying economic-sociological aspect to it.