WHO alcohol

Photo: Pixabay

Women of childbearing age should stop drinking alcohol, says WHO

A controversial draft policy by the World Health Organization (WHO) that advises that women aged between 18 and 50 should stop drinking has been slammed for being sexist.

WHO alcohol

Photo: Pixabay

The World Health Organization (WHO) drew staunch criticism after one of its draft policies advised that women of “childbearing age” – 18 to 50 – should be prevented from consuming alcohol. The suggestion has been slammed as “sexist” by large swathes of society.


In the health body’s first draft of the Global action plan on alcohol 2022-2030, one sentence, in particular, has led to criticism.

“Appropriate attention should be given to the prevention of the initiation of drinking among children and adolescents, prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age,” reads the draft policy.

Industry bodies slammed the guidance as being sexist. The advice also fails to account for women who do not wish to have children or cannot give birth.

“As well as being sexist and paternalistic, and potentially restricting the freedoms of most women, it goes well beyond their remit and is not rooted in science,” said Matt Lambert, the CEO of the Portman Group, an industry body that regulates alcohol marketing in the United Kingdom.

Richard Piper, the CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said drinking alcohol during the early stages of pregnancy may be harmful to the foetus even before people realise they are pregnant. “It’s important that people understand these risks – but also vital that we balance this against each adult’s right to make informed decisions about what we do with our bodies, no matter our age or sex,” said Piper.

The WHO said the harmful use of alcohol causes approximately 3 million deaths every year. The health body added that the number of diseases and injuries attributable to alcohol consumption remains unacceptably high. Therefore, the draft policy is meant to accelerate the reduction of harmful consumption.

The controversial advice drew a mixed reaction from South African social media users.

“Are they going to tell women what to wear next? What is it with the obsession to control women,” asked one Twitter user.

“Will never fly. Never mind the noble intent but it will be seen as discriminatory,” said another user, to which someone replied: “There’s nothing noble about this.”

The draft policy can be read here.