Check out this article from The Fix, Pregnant South Africans May Be Banned From Buying Booze (February 7, 2012).

The legislature of the South African province of Gauteng (which includes the country’s capital Pretoria and its largest city, Johannesburg) released a draft bill on Monday to restrict sales of alcohol as one way of addressing concerns about the high rates of alcohol  misuse and FASD in the country.

One section of the bill states: “A [liquor] licensee must not sell, supply or give liquor to (a) a minor; (b) a person who is dressed in a school uniform; (c) a person who appears to be intoxicated; or (d) a pregnant woman.”

This is raising all sorts of questions (rightly so). How do you know if someone is pregnant? Are pregnant women really in the same category as students and people who appear intoxicated? What if a pregnant woman wants to buy some wine for her partner or as a gift? And, wait a second, isn’t this a gender equality issue? Why are we trying to control women’s decisions and actions in this way?

Alcohol legislation that restricts the ways in which alcohol is sold has been shown to be very effective in reducing harms related to alcohol use. But this particular law raises questions about weighing societal benefits and individual choice. As an attempt at reducing rates of FASD, it’s concerning because it suggests that possible harms to the fetus and costs to society are more important than focusing on supporting women and addressing the reasons and contexts for alcohol use. Historically, FASD prevention has been child-centred and this has not been an effective approach – in  fact, it can sometimes cause more harm than good.

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