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Women don’t care for Delhi’s reduced drinking age — they still have to pay high morality tax

You can be 25 or 50, wear ripped jeans or a saree. If you are a woman with a glass in your hand, you are a threat to sanskar.

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You can drink in Delhi if you are 21 years old now. Wait, don’t cheer yet. Things will still not change for women who drink, regardless of age. Because women who drink have to pay a morality tax in India. You can be 25 or 50, wear ripped jeans or a saree. If you have a glass in your hand, you are a threat to sanskar.

When the Delhi government reduced the legal age of liquor consumption from 25 to 21 years, there was much rejoicing and meme-making by netizens.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also announced that there will be no government liquor stores in the city and no new liquor shops will be opened in the capital either.

But what do women in Delhi, or for that matter women anywhere in India, have to say about the new rule? Does this reduction in legal age of drinking impact them? Not really.

Also read: Cheers to Delhi govt for reducing drinking age to 21 and getting out of liquor business

Chilled beer, and not-so-chill moral policing

Liquor stores in India have always been masculine spaces — from the salesmen to the customers, everywhere you look there are men jostling, yelling out their orders, climbing on top of each other to make it to the payment counter. Furthermore, they’re sure to look at you up and down and make you feel that as a woman you’re in the wrong place.

When Covid lockdown restrictions were eased last year, photos of around-the-block liquor store queues, full of men, flooded social media.

But as a tweet from our very own Ram Gopal Verma proved , it was only when women stood in queue, albeit with social distancing, that the hackles of moral police were raised. The director had tweeted, ‘Look who’s in line at the wine shops ..So much for protecting women against drunk men’, seemingly suggesting that women buying alcohol should not complain about violence.

Also read: Ripped jeans aren’t just fashion for Indian women. No wonder CM Rawat is worried


The 2016 film Pink took a jibe at Indian society’s perception of ‘waisi ladkiyan’ (those type of girls) or women who party and drink. Now we’re in 2021, and it doesn’t seem like India has undergone any change in its perception of women who drink.

In 2017, two women in their twenties from Gurgaon were groped, molested, and asked for their ‘rate’ outside a liquor shop from which they bought alcohol. While this may seem like an isolated incident, general disapproval, groping and jostling in govt alcohol shops across Delhi-NCR is not a myth.

Women often dress conservatively or cover their faces with masks, not only to avoid judgment, but also to evade violence. But there is honestly no escaping from the scrutiny. Be it shorts or jeans or a saree, you will be judged.

From nosey neighbours and landlords to random uncles, no one pauses before judging women who buy alcohol. It is seen as an inherently ‘shameful’ act, against Indian ‘culture’, especially when carried out by women.

I remember once buying alcohol while wearing a lehenga after having attended a wedding, and everyone, from my cab driver to the shop owners, gave me disapproving glances. In fact, attire plays a huge role in buying alcohol. One has to decide on an ‘appropriate outfit’ to wear while buying alcohol, lest one be thought more ‘immoral’.
And the safest option if any, is usually either to get a male friend to buy you alcohol, or get one to accompany you — and that speaks volumes about our perception of women who drink.

Also read: Indian women can’t go out and socialise because of their mothers-in-law: Study

Safe spaces and public places

A 2019 survey, conducted by Community Against Drunken Driving (CADD) in Delhi on the city’s drinking habits, concluded that women are drinking more than before.The sample size of the survey was 5,000 women aged between 18 to 70. Some companies are even cashing in on this trend, recently an Indian gin company wished its female patrons a Happy Women’s Day with a purple version of their label.

In fact, India’s alcohol consumption increased by 38 per cent between 2010 and 2017, and the women’s alcohol market is expected to grow by 25 per cent over the next five years.

These numbers, however, do not tell the story of how and where alcohol is being consumed.

The Kantar-NFX study, which spanned seven states and received inputs from over 3,000 respondents, sheds light on the growing base of Indian women who choose to drink at home for a variety of reasons.

In public spaces like bars, pubs and restaurants, women who drink often have to keep a constant check on their ‘safety’, or again, be accompanied by ‘safe’ men, or keep their families in the know and share cab details, if they are not travelling in their personal vehicles.

So, while we rejoice the reduced legal drinking age, we may want to take a hard look at whether that really impacts how we look at the choice to drink when it comes to women. India’s capital city New Delhi for starters can make focused efforts to help the city’s women feel safe and comfortable while they’re purchasing a drink, be it at a store, or at a pub, and let women say ‘cheers’ without worry.

Views are personal.

Edited by Fiza Jha

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  1. Even the comments section is full with misogynists! This country will never progress. If I’ll have a daughter I’ll move to the US and give her a safe environment.

  2. women drinking more is not really a sign of liberation and it is the same with men. The stress of modern life is getting to be too much and so both sexes drink to feel relaxed.

    • 100% Agreed. Feminists say “If Men can do any affair, they can drink. Why not us?” But, “Intellectuals” and “Feminists” need to understand that if anything is bad for one person then it’s bad for all. Drinking was, is and will be bad for all, Period!

  3. Sanskaris whether it is male or female never drinks & sanskar runs in bloodline, you can’t become sanskari suddenly in one generation

  4. In sanskaari homes/families, neither the men nor the women drink. And yes, there are millions of such sanskaari families across the nation.
    No one wishes to force “sanskaar” down someone else’s throats but being two faced serves no purpose at all. Rather it misleads people and creates complications.
    Why lay claim to being “sanskaari” when you love to drink?

    • yes i agree in my home if i drink(im a boy) same consquences as my sis will happen with me or more as my parents take my upbringing a little seriously then my sis.

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