ALESTLE VIEW: WHO’s guidance on alcohol consumption targets women, excludes men

The World Health Organization faces accusations of sexism after releasing the first draft of their global action plan on alcohol that explicitly avoids looking at how alcohol can affect men when trying to conceive a child.

“Appropriate attention should be given to prevention of the initiation of drinking among children and adolescents, prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age,” the WHO states in its global action plan on alcohol.

The WHO’s wording is problematic — while likely unintentional, it has received backlash from numerous organizations.

It’s no secret that a lot of people like to have the occasional drink, and something like that should not be discouraged based on the biological capacity to have a child. Women can and should be able to drink when they want unless it might negatively affect someone else, and unless they’re planning to get pregnant, it’s not the WHO’s business whether they drink or not.

But the term “childbearing age'' itself leaves too many questions due to the difference of fertility in each woman. Women tend to have average peak fertility rates in their late teenage years and mid-forties, but that doesn’t necessarily mean before or after those ages that women can’t get pregnant. 

The advice seemingly implies that women are meant only for bearing a child at some point, but many women wait until later, and some don’t want children at all. The advice itself is limited to women and children, and while pregnant women should obviously avoid alcohol, not every woman wants to get pregnant.

Yet again, people are left to ask: What about men? Where is the advice for men?

There are different causes for low sperm count in men, including alcohol, drug use and even jobs that require a lot of sitting, but the WHO decided to not insist on giving “appropriate attention” to men.

The WHO advice conveniently leaves men out of the issue, yet men have issues when consuming alcohol too. Anyone who consumes alcohol takes some sort of risk in doing so.


Women being “prevented” from drinking is wording too broad to define, yet it is the word they chose, making it seem like they might enforce something regardless of whether they will or not.

We at The Alestle believe that women know the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant, and this idea that women should always anticipate pregnancy is ridiculous. It’s not a woman’s job to get pregnant as soon as possible, so it’s not their job to avoid alcohol while they’re young just because they have the ability to become pregnant.

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