Infidelity tests are now a common affair
One morning last month, Dubairesident Raj Kanodia fished out a used bedsheet from the laundry basket while his wife was away. He then swiped his mouth with a cotton bud to collect saliva, sealed it in an envelope, and couriered it to a Hyderabad laboratory along with the used bed linen.
A week later, the 34-year-old got his answer. "As I suspected, the stain on the bedsheet was indeed semen. And the DNA in the semen did not match mine," he says. It was difficult for Kanodia, who has been married for two years, to come to terms with the finding, but he is glad he ordered the test. "If I had not, I would have been constantly nagged by doubt," says the former Delhi resident, adding that he confronted his wife and they are "still trying to work things out".
The test was life-altering for Kanodia, but at the Hyderabad laboratory -- One Touch Solutions and Services (OTS) -- it was a routine "infidelity test". The lab gets at least two to three such requests a month mostly from young, married men.
Though the infidelity test, which is popular abroad, is relatively new to India, demand for it has been increasing, says Ritu Sohaney, a DNA test consultant at OTS. The lab gets used condoms, cigarette butts, underwear, waxing strips, tongue cleaners, earbuds, nails and blood-stained bedsheets for testing, she adds.
The Indian Biosciences laboratory in Gurgaon also receives "four to five" enquiries every month from young people who want to know how they can nail their cheating spouses. The company charges Rs 27,920 to test one suspicious object.
The laboratories extract DNA from the sample submitted and analyse it to determine whether the biological material (blood or semen) on it belongs to a male or female. They can also help in identifying who the spouse is having an affair with at an additional cost. While some test-seekers send their own cheek swabs to see if the DNA profile matches theirs, others, who suspect a particular person, send an item belonging to the 'other' man/woman, too. "We don't know how people manage but we do get saliva samples and even blood in tubes for comparison," said a laboratory in-charge.
The practice of sneakily sending someone's personal belongings for testing has raised ethical concerns in some circles. But US-based Razib Khan, who blogs about genetics for Discover Magazine, believes that "if you can get the material, it's yours to test and examine".
As of now there is no law in India that mandates taking consent of the person whose sample is sent for DNA testing. A draft bill to regulate DNA testing was prepared in 2007, but it has not yet been introduced in Parliament. The laboratory head says they insist on consent of the person whose DNA sample is submitted to be on the safe side, but admits that there is no way to verify the authenticity of the signature on the form. "It is possible that some people may have fudged signatures. We don't ask too many questions. We simply provide the service," he shrugged.
(Some names have been changed on request)