Old Enough, Rich Enough, Pretty Enough?

It baffled me to see that even with grey hair and a cane, the lady in front of me at the supermarket’s counter was being asked for her identification card to confirm she was old enough to purchase a bottle of wine. I don’t know if one would feel offended or flattered to be asked for an identification card at that age, but it made me think that this lady in particular must be happy that the young gentleman behind the counter was doing his job properly – who wouldn’t right?

I had heard of this land where everyone would get asked a similar question to buy any alcoholic drink, and seeing it up close was a good reminder of what should be done back home. Though we have already evoked the problems and outcomes of driving under the influence of alcohol, this encounter made me want to explore the other side of the spectrum and touch upon who should be allowed to drink in the first place.

We all grow up in different families; some that allow their children to have a sip of the occasional tela (Ethiopian traditional ale), tej (Ethiopian honey wine) or beer, while others are strict about children drinking alcohol before they are legally ‘adults’. We often hear parents or other family members insisting that the kids drink a little bit during festivities and often hear arguments that kids should learn to build tolerance at a younger age before they make fools of themselves as adults. On the other hand, some families enforce the legal drinking age even at home, not only for their children’s proper mental and physical development, but also because they want to avoid raising irresponsible and law breaking citizens. It can be agreed that the rules under each family’s roof should be allowed some flexibility, but what becomes of the rule of the land in public spaces?

Nowadays, we are seeing more and more brewing companies, and various alcohol distilleries, ensuring that their brands mention the legal drinking age everywhere. Banners, posters, flyers, t-shirts, TV, radio and other mediums of advertisements are now adamant about raising awareness on drinking and driving, as well as the drinking age limit. These are great improvements compared to a decade ago, where no visible age limits were promoted at the same time as these alcohol products. That being said, is it really sufficient to announce, promote and advertise the age limit?

It can be witnessed in many of the pubs and clubs in Addis, bouncers arbitrarily refusing entry to adults at times and admitting underage youth some other times. Most of the time it is obvious that the choices of these bouncers, entrusted with the duty of ensuring the admission of people of age and, of course, the security of the premises, are purely business oriented.

How? Allow me to elaborate.

Whilst standing outside a club, seeing all the younger generation, indubitably underage, it suddenly becomes flagrantly obvious that the bouncers are less stern on the girls than the boys. We often hear bar owners stating that having a lot of women in their premises is good for business, based on the logic that men will frequent these places and spend their money there (kindly ignore the objectification of the female gender for the sake of this article). I know this sounds awful to say, but following this economical reasoning, underage girls are also absolved from the ID verification process that should happen at the gates. This being said, it could be argued that since the laws are not enforced anywhere, why should these businesses pass up the opportunity to make money?

What I find to be most concerning is the fact that the criteria for admission is based on the branded clothing and shoes worn (that should resemble those worn on Hip Hop music videos), the ability to pay the entrance fee (when there is one) and of course the ability to speak a little English, which always helps, but rarely the possession of an Identification card. If we are worried about how the youth are spending their leisure time in Ethiopia, should we not start by fixing some things until we put in place healthier venues for them, such as parks and libraries?

If creating spaces will take time, and they will take time for various reasons, how about making sure that in the meantime they are at least protected from drinking themselves to an early grave thanks to our drink drivers.

Even though that lady was asked for her ID, I also found out that on the Campuses in this same land, there are a horrifying number of student deaths accounted for each year due to over drinking, binge drinking, drowning in their own vomit and other alcohol related incidents. We have surely heard a couple of stories about our young ones going to the lakes near Addis and drowning in them after a long night of drinking, for example, but would we be ready to deal with the situation should this happen more often? Wouldn’t that be the direction that this would take unless it is put to a halt early on? Again, how about each of us playing a part to guarantee our Nation with its next generation of citizens as business owners, friends and family?


By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled “poetic saturdays” - a platform created to allow everyone the freedom of self-expression through art. She can be contacted at poeticsaturdays@gmail.Com

Published on Sep 06,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 853]



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