Mayuri Singhal, 36, married into a fair-skinned family. She herself is what is often described in matrimonial columns as ‘wheatish’. When she couldn’t conceive, she walked into an IVF clinic with her demand: a ‘white’ baby. “I had read on the internet that one could access a donor who is fair. I decided to opt for one so that the child blends in with the family.”
According to the World Health Organization, there are close to 19 million infertile couples in India and their numbers are growing. “Couples who come for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) list out specifications â€” the egg or sperm donor should be educated, fair, have blue eyes,” says Dr Rita Bakshi, an IVF expert. Dr Bakshi says roughly 70% clients ask for fair donors.
Infertility experts warn that getting a ‘designer’ baby is difficult and expensive. “You need a lot of paperwork and approvals,” cautions Dr Anjali Malpani, a Mumbai-based fertility specialist. European donors may charge between $1,000 to $5,000 (Rs 6,000 to Rs 30,000 approximately) depending on factors such as physical health and educational background.
Dr Manish Banker, director of a fertility clinic, says: “Seeking fair-skinned donors is a rising trend. Couples usually ask for donors with blue or brown eyes.”
IVF clinics can obtain permission to import frozen human embryo after getting certain documents in order. Caucasian eggs are usually sourced from donors in Spain and countries in Eastern Europe. Dr Bakshi of Delhi explains: “You need to get a legal agreement signed by the intended parents, and the clinic, which should be registered with the ICMR. The clinic should issue a No Objection Certificate to import frozen human embryo and it should be signed by the intended parents while they are physically present in India.” Various courier services and cryopreservation companies ship such biological material to India.
Laws vary according to the country. For example, Canada forbids its donors from demanding any financial compensation. On the other hand, the US does not regulate the amount of money that can be paid to a donor. In 2012, fertility watchdog Human Fertility and Embryology Authority raised the limit for UK donors from Â£250 per cycle to Â£750 (Rs 22,600 to Rs 67,800 approx.).
But there are issues of logistics and laws. Dr Malpani of Mumbai cites a 2010 incident where a container carrying frozen human embryos from the US was seized by customs officials at Mumbai airport and returned to the US. While the ART Bill 2010 clearly states that import of human embryos is allowed, the customs department has yet to update its import tariff manual to include it.
None of this deters couples like Suresh and Supriya Shetty from Hyderabad who scouted for a donor fairer than them. “We are so grateful that our daughter Vani is as white as milk. There is no denying that it is easier to get fair girls married,” says Suresh who came to Ahmedabad to get IVF treatment done.