HomeOpinion & AnalysisIs alcohol ban for women on the cards?

Is alcohol ban for women on the cards?

Has the World Health Organisation (WHO) proposed that “women of ‘child-bearing age’ be banned from drinking alcohol”? That was the claim made by South African radio talk show host Aldrin Sampear on June 17, 2021, in a tweet reshared over 1 000 times.

Many Twitter users responded, saying the proposed ban was sexist.

Some compared it to the dystopian book and television series The Handmaid’s Tale, where a Christian fundamentalist society forces fertile women to have children.

Other news outlets, including the Irish Post and the Daily Mail, also reported on a proposed ban.

South Africa’s TimesLive reported that the WHO wanted women of child-bearing age to “abstain” from drinking alcohol.

Are these reports correct? We checked.

In June 2021 the WHO published the first draft of its global alcohol action plan for 2022 to 2030. It is intended “to strengthen implementation of the global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol”.

But WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević told Africa Check that media reports of the draft were not accurate.

“The current draft of WHO’s global action plan does not recommend abstinence for all women who are of an age at which they could become pregnant,” he explained.

“However, it does seek to raise awareness of the serious consequences that can result from drinking alcohol while pregnant, even when the pregnancy is not yet known.”

The WHO considers women of child-bearing or reproductive age to be aged 15 to 49 years old.

The draft action plan, which will be revised after consultation, suggests a number of interventions to reduce rates of alcohol use disorders and alcohol-related deaths.

This includes raising awareness about the risks of alcohol abuse by observing an “international day or week of awareness on the harmful use of alcohol”.

It goes on to discuss measures that member states should take in order to raise awareness about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and reduce the incidence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause irreversible harm to the foetus that results in developmental and cognitive issues. These issues are known as FASD.

But none of these proposed measures include banning women of child-bearing age from drinking.

The first draft of the WHO’s global alcohol action plan recommends “special attention” be given to preventing alcohol consumption among a number of groups, including pregnant women and women of child-bearing age.

However, the organisation said it did not propose that women of child-bearing age should be banned from drinking alcohol. It instead proposed raising awareness around the impact of alcohol abuse on foetal development.

We, therefore, rate this claim incorrect.


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