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According to BBC News Gurvinder Gill: The stigma stopping Sikh women getting help with alcohol addiction


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The stigma stopping Sikh women getting help with alcohol addiction

By Gurvinder Gill BBC Asian Network
  • 15 July 2017



Punjabi Sikh women with drinking problems are less likely to come forward for help because of the fear of stigma and shame, a West Midlands alcohol support group says.

Drinking alcohol is often associated with the Punjabi culture, but is prohibited in Sikhism. Baptised Sikhs are forbidden from drinking but some non-baptised Sikhs do consume alcohol.

Whilst the vast majority of those who do drink have no problem, a small number of Punjabi Sikh women are affected.

Data collected by Birmingham-based charity Aquarius showed 16% of service users who received help for alcohol misuse in 2011-2012 identified as Asian or Asian British.


A small survey carried out by the charity found 57% of people from this community, the majority of whom were Sikh, said shame was a reason for not getting help.

Professor Sarah Galvani from Bedfordshire University, who carried out the research, said younger women's drinking was seen to be increasing.

"The reason for that was primarily that these women were growing up in much more westernised communities, where women's drinking was acceptable," she said.

"They were adopting some of those behaviours of the community they were growing up, but still living within a community that had quite traditional views about women's drinking."

  Image caption Jennifer Shergill from the Shanti project is encouraging people to get help

Jennifer Shergill from the Shanti project, which encourages people to get help with their addictions and offers services in Punjabi, says the issue seems to be religion versus culture.

"Culture is kind of the thing that we need to focus on when we're talking about Punjabi alcohol misuse, the kind of culture that's prevalent in media, when people get together, in weddings and birthday parties, that kind of drinking in social groups," she said.

Pardip Samra, from Edgbaston, Birmingham, is setting up a women-only support group, helping Asian women who may be addicted to alcohol.

She said she also had an issue with drinking.

"I became dependent on it almost every day. I blamed it on work, I blamed it on family but it was never the drink, it was always something else," she said.

Ms Samra believes alcohol dependency-related issues need to be spoken about more and wants other women to know there is help available.

Mandeep's story

Mandeep - not her real name - is a Punjabi Sikh in her 30s. She started drinking alcohol with her friends when in college and 10 years ago realised she had a drinking problem.

"I subconsciously knew my drinking wasn't normal because I could easily consume more than those around me. It's like just drinking to shut off your head and make yourself numb again," she said.

When she told her family she was an alcoholic, some of her relatives were in denial.

"They were like, 'No you haven't, no you haven't'. They didn't really react because they didn't really believe in the fact that it's a problem."

In the past, Mandeep has relapsed but this time, with the help of the Shanti project, she is hopeful about her recovery and wants to help other Punjabi Sikh women like herself in the future.

You can hear the full documentary, The Hidden Alcohol Addiction: Punjabi Sikh Women Speak Out, on the BBC Asian Network iPlayer.

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Guest Jacfsing2

Sikhs aren't supposed to be drinking, if someone does want to drink, they shouldn't blame it on cultural reasons. That said many Sikhs do drink, and not saying that's the big problem, but the problem is mostly involved in the desire to fight this problem through will-power. No body will solve anything by mere will-power alone, and that is why everyone dealing with these problems should be trying their very best to get the help they need if they want to stop drinking, smoking, porn, or any substance abuse. Man, woman, child, these mental addictions are real to all of them.


*But don't insult the culture over your own personal problems, especially if you were lucky enough to be born into the house of Vaheguru.

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BEcause drinking is look really down upon for women in most punjabi families, then there is a stigma which makes those women look like tramps as it kinda signifies that these women are out at night and go to other undesirable places, ie also not making them marriage material.

I am sure they have exes to go with those glassys as well.

End of the day it's parents fault for not looking after their children, letting them firr like kuttay billay

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49 minutes ago, MisterrSingh said:

I didn't even know there was a problem with drinking amongst Punjabi women on a scale that warranted stigma. 


There is a problem, but not enough come out for help or it's hidden. There's some women that turn to drink, when they can't cope with problems they face, instead of getting help with it. There was a program on one of the Sikh channels a few years back and a lady was saying how women also have alcoholic problems. It doesn't necessarily mean they go out at night or are in bad company. Some may just turn to drink for a way out, which is unfortunately not the right way. They will probably be ashamed of asking for help, afraid of the judgement. Even with men having a drink problem, it takes a lot of courage to admit they need help, so with women especially in our community it's harder for them. 

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14 hours ago, Singhsburys said:

What about the men? 

Where the hell would we start with that topic.......

Apnay are genuinely famous for drinking. That's saying a lot.

Historically, I think it was those day time gigs mixed with witnessing loads of young apnay blokes getting p1ssed (who themselves were modelling their behaviour on many of the previous generation) that started apneean on drinking, and started the trend we see today. 

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