The World Health Organization has been accused of being “sexist and paternalistic” after advising women of childbearing age not to drink alcohol – regardless of their family plans, according to a report.
The UN agency’s draft global alcohol action plan for 2022-2030 urges countries to pay “appropriate attention to prevention” of consumption in certain groups, including teens and women of childbearing age, the UK’s Telegraph reported.
Matt Lambert, head of the Portman Group, the social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK, slammed the WHO on Wednesday, saying its officials had gone “well beyond their remit,” according to the outlet.
“We are extremely concerned by the WHO calling on countries to prevent drinking among women of childbearing age in their latest action plan,” Lambert said.
“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,” he said.
“It is wrong to scaremonger in this irresponsible way and associate women’s alcohol-related risks with those of children and pregnant people,” Lambert added.
According to the WHO plant, “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.”
Christopher Snowdon, the head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, called the plan “a classic World Health Organization idiocy.”
“Not content with repeatedly dropping the ball on COVID-19 and dishing out awards to politicians for banning vaping, it now thinks most of the world’s women should abstain from alcohol,” he said, The Telegraph reported.
“The idea that it is unsafe for women of childbearing age to drink any alcohol is unscientific and absurd. Moreover, it is none of the WHO’s business,” he added.
Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: “Drinking alcohol in the early stages of pregnancy, even before many people realize they’re pregnant, can be very damaging for a fetus.
“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,” he said.
The WHO did not immediately respond to the outlet’s request for comment.