Liquor companies have not taken responsibility for their retailers selling alcohol to children

Dear Editor,
Stabroek News on Monday, December 3, 2012 carried the story of the ordeal faced by Ms Rajpattie Kurhair as she escaped her abusive husband.  Ms Kurhair tells of her five-year-old child Christine: “He would also send their five-year-old daughter to purchase rum and cigarettes and when she refused he would beat her.

“Kurhair said, ‘sometimes the child would go halfway and turn back and say she din get but sometimes he don’t believe and he does send she back.‘“

One of the ugly realities of our alcohol consuming culture is the abuse and terror endured by the children who have to go and buy the alcohol which destroys their families. What is the larger reality is the continued lack of any sense of responsibility by our legal liquor dealers in preventing their retailers – licensed and unlicensed – from selling alcohol to children.

The Protection of Children Act makes it an offence to sell alcohol to children. As with much of the alcohol legislation in Guyana, there is no enforcement. The alcohol industry, unlike the tobacco industry, refuses to hold its sellers accountable for the sale of alcohol to children, preferring instead to rely on the dysfunctional legal enforcement. Meanwhile, the profits grow as the children – many of them, damned if they buy the liquor, damned if they do not – become reluctant dealers of the products.  Guyana’s rum heritage museum does not carry the tales or stories of the children who feel responsible and who have to find ways of lying, or of walking slowly to delay the inevitable blows.
And the sellers who take the money from the children and put the alcohol in their hands see no problem since it is our culture in Guyana; children buy liquor for their parents, often because the parents are sometimes already too intoxicated to move.

An 18-year-old woman who has cannabis is more likely to be charged and jailed than any alcohol seller who puts the drug in a child’s reluctant hands to take home to fuel the rage and violence which characterises much of the alcohol consumption in Guyana.

This season, the alcohol industry will be encouraging consumption of its products. Those who sip wine and beer, ensconced in cosy notions of ‘moderate’ drinking in ‘regulated’ environments will distance themselves from the realities faced by children like Christine as they support an industry which thrives on the misery of many Guyanese.

It would be interesting to see if the people who sell the alcohol to the children in Abary Creek, and their wholesale distributors would be held accountable. Maybe Christine would be asked who sells her the liquor.

Things would start to change when the sacred alcohol industry is also held  responsible for the well-being of the children who are abused in Guyana by the consumers of its products.

Yours faithfully,
Vidyaratha Kissoon

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