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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 clinicwithher 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 – 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 expertswarn thatgetting a ‘designer’ baby isdifficult 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 physicalhealth andeducationalbackground.

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." ‘For fair, strong kid, a couple sought donor from Germany’

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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.

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 after a couple of failed cycles in Hyderabad clinics. The couple couldn’t conceive naturally because Supriya suffered from cysts in ovaries and had to get them removed.

Dr Malpani adds that the maximum demand for fair–skinned donors comes from Kashmiris, Parsis and Punjabis as they themselves are fair complexioned. "A couple came to me asking for a German donor because they wanted a child with a strong physique and fair skin," says Dr Malpani. Doctors say that the demand for donor eggs is much more than for sperm. The donors either come to India for egg retrieval or eggs are fertilised abroad and the embryo is then imported. Eggs are sourced from international banks like The Egg Donor (TED) Centre as India still does not have a registered egg bank.

Like with surrogacy, the trend of Indian couples seeking Caucasian donors is raising many ethical questions. Banker claims that legislation to ban the use of foreign donors is being contemplated. Till then the use of fair–skinned donors remains in a grey zone.

Times of India
22 July 2013,

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