Public health specialist Dr Canisius Banda says women in Zambia are generally stressed and have resorted to alcohol abuse because most of them have no means of survival after government decided to remove them from the street where they were trading in order to make a living.

Last Wednesday, Chief Government Spokesperson, Dora Siliya, told journalists that Cabinet had passed a resolution to put in place measures that will prevent excessive intake of alcohol among citizens, following worrying statistics indicating that 42 per cent of Zambian women drink excessively.

Citing a World Health Organization (WHO) survey, Siliya, who is also Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, disclosed that Zambian women were exposed as the “biggest consumers” of alcohol in the world.

Reacting to Siliya’s remarks, Dr Banda emphasised that there was need for people to understand the reason why Zambian women would be drinking so much.

“The government should [instead] understand to say, ‘why are people drinking so much? Maybe they are stressed. Why are they stressed? Maybe it’s poverty; they have been chased off the streets. They were vending there, they were making money and now they are not. Now you see the wife says to her husband, ‘eh imwe kodi banzanu basebenza, imwe simuzebenza nichani (how come all your friends are working and then you don’t do anything yourself, what’s the problem)? Now, the husband goes to the bar to drink and then the woman has no mealie-meal in the house. The neighbour has got a few notes in the pocket, he passes the money onto the wife and then there is fornication, adultery. So, let’s understand the root causes of drunkenness,” Dr Banda said in an interview with News Diggers!

“And why is it that it is the women? It is strange. Because the providers in homes tend to be men, so they are the ones who should be stressed the most and they should resort to taking alcohol is a sedative to cool themselves down. So, it’s important that we understand where this observation is coming from. Is it correct to say that and if it is, why is it that the women are number one and really is it true? We need to challenge that conclusion. It might not be true, but if it is true, nonetheless, regulation of vending is important. The state must designate sites where bars must be located, timing of when the bar should open and close, who should enter and who shouldn’t enter, but as far as actual consumption of alcohol is convened, the state has no authority over the individual.”

Dr Banda, the former UPND vice-president for administration, however, added that the survey needed verification.

“That survey needs verification; we need to have reliable evidence to be able to state with authority that it is true that, ‘Zambian women drink the most in the world.’ And if it is true, then we need to get to the bottom of it, what’s the root cause of this? What’s the origin of this drunkenness? Alcohol has been with us, and if you remember, that wedding at Cana and Jesus Christ was in attendance, and his mother was also there, and she noticed that people were rather bored. They were not making merry as it is supposed to happen. So, the mother of Jesus went to him and said, ‘son look, look, do something’ and Jesus turned water into wine and that was alcohol. Jesus brewed alcohol, so taking alcohol is Christian, but drunkenness is not. Now he who regulates the intake of alcohol is the consumer, the person that has got access to alcohol is the one who should decide how much of it they should take,” Dr Banda narrated.

He added that there was need to strengthen legislation regarding the general business of alcohol by the government.

“The state, civil society organisations, the media and various information disseminators should make information available to citizens. What is alcohol, what are the beneficial effects of alcohol, what are the deleterious harmful effects of alcohol? The decision to consume alcohol will be made by an individual. But in Zambia it is very sad that you will find bars, taverns opening even before people wake up. You will find that you are still in bed; 05:30 hours or four o’clock, there is music blaring from the speakers at a bar near your home. To start with; the location of bars needs to be legislated for, secondly, the opening of bars. Opening and closing of bars should looked into,” advised Dr Banda.

“Who should be getting into bars, what age? So, this where the state comes in now, anybody that deals in alcoholic drinks and beverages must have a license, they must be permitted to do so and they must understand what alcohol is and to whom they should sell it. So, you don’t sell alcohol to somebody below the permitted age, for example, 18 years. So, if somebody is 16, it’s illegal to sell alcohol to those. But today, in this country, you find that anybody… you find children in bars, in taverns. So, there is need for such legislation. But when it comes to actual consumption, the state has no authority over me or you on how much we should consume. That is out of bounds for government, the government cannot come into my home and tell me not to take Chibuku or to take only two packets, no. They have authority over me over that.”