Aditya, a 28-year-old businessman, is the first sperm donor in his family. The Mumbai-based youth recently took the bold step, but kept it a secret from his family and girlfriend.
“This was not a voluntary decision,” said Aditya. “My best friend was married and was unable to have a child. They were looking for sperm donors. They went to different clinics, but were never sure. That’s when they turned to me. I was reluctant in the beginning. But since this was for a close friend I decided to pitch in.”
Though Aditya was confident of what he was doing, he was nervous how society would react to this.
Sperm donation, while common in North America, has always been rare in India. Earlier this year, an Indian couple's advertisement for a payment of 20,000 rupees (about $380 CDN) for the sperm of an Indian Institute of Technology alumnus sparked an online debate.
The concept of sperm donation might still raise eyebrows in conservative circles of Indian society. But the modern Indian is all set to change his outlook towards life and accept new trends.
Bollywood and the winds of change
Bollywood movies have always had inspiring themes that have brought about a change in peoples' attitudes. Movies featuring gay relationships, biopics on sex symbols, caste quotas, honour killings and sexual harassment have helped shift popular attitudes, and now the same effect is happening for sperm donors. With the release of Bollywood movie Vicky Donor, attitudes have been rapidly changing.
The movie is a romantic comedy about a much-in-demand sperm donor at a fertility clinic. Directed by Shoojit Sircar, the movie stars Annu Kapoor, Ayushman Khurana and Yami Gautam in the leading role. A box-office hit in India and internationally, the movie had a gross collection of £90,329 in the UK, $466,467 in the US and $286,000 in the United Arab Emirates.
Is the change here for good?
Vicky Donor has helped previously hesitant Indian sperm donors to come out and freely donate. But has the society really accepted the change, or is it a temporary trend?
Calls for enquiring for sperm donation has gone up from 2-3 calls per day to 10-15 calls per day, reported Indian newspaper, Times of India. The movie appears to have inspired donors in the age group of 20-25 years and college students.
The same newspaper had expert doctors confirming that there has been a steady rise since the release of the Vicky Donor film. Dr Kamini Rao, gynaecologist and infertility specialist, says: "There has been a 30 per cent rise in the number of people donating semen, and there has been a significant rise (30 per cent) in the number of queries regarding sperm donation at the clinic."
Bollywood movies have taken a different genres post the arrival of multiplexes.
“Parallel movies are on the rise in the Indian movie market,” said Tanushree Jaju, a student of Film Appreciation and Critic in Bangalore.
“These kind of movies are more focused on current topics related directly to the society. There are a lot of new actors who are ready to explore with their career and work in movies which an established actor would not. But these movies have made a lot of impact.
The new trend movies are generally more influential for the youngsters in the new emerging India.
“I saw Vicky Donor and did a lot of research online about the topic,” said Purab, a 23-year old MBA student from Delhi.
“I was under the misconception concerning the whole the idea of sperm donation. Research and media assistance helped me a lot to change my mind-set. And it is for a good cause. I don’t mind going and donating.”
Like Aditya, Purab did not disclose the idea of him going and donating sperm to his family. He felt it was a new idea for him; it might turn out to be shocking for his parents.
Though there might be a change in attitude for younger people, the older generation still seems to be skeptical about the phenomenon.
“I have heard of the movie,” said Ashutosh Ghanekar, a corporate bank employee from Nagpur.
“But I am not supporting the idea. The newer generation can experiment but leave us out of this.”
Bollywood actor John Abraham, who produced the film, said in an interview in the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times quoted that the idea of accepting a stranger’s sperm is still not that freely acceptable as it should have been with single girls living in metros.
“Recently, I brought up the subject with three such youngsters, one of whom said she would adopt if she couldn’t conceive, the other said sperm donation was absolutely out and the third admitted that it would be an option only if all other alternatives were exhausted,” said Abraham.
Stigma attached with sperm donation: a myth or truth?
Religious stigma and the tendency of parents to determine the caste of the donor before accepting sperms where always considered a major hurdle in the conservative Indian society.
Caste system is still prevalent and can be a factor before adopting a baby or asking for sperm donation.
“I know many people who still think about the caste of the baby or sperm donor still in India,” said Anjali Kulkarni, a homemaker from Mumbai.
“But it is also slowly changing. Most of the adoption agencies and sperm banks don’t disclose the identity to probable before considering adopting.”
Kulkarni, a 32 –year old, was considering the option of sperm donation for herself a couple of years ago. But due to lack of donors instead opted for adoption.
“It took time to change the society’s opinion about adoption. I guess it will be the same with sperm donation also,” said Kulkarni.