The event, entitled, “By women for women: new approaches to harm reduction", organized by UNODC in the framework of the 56th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna focused on the issue of access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services for women who use drugs. Aldo Lale-Demoz, the newly appointed Director of Division for Operations and Global Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, UNODC, elucidated the gravity of this issue, “Poverty, domestic violence, police harassment and fear of losing custody of their children are only some of the barriers preventing them from seeking prevention and care services. The stigma or double stigma in case of incarceration that women who use drugs face increases the likelihood of engaging in behaviors that enhance their vulnerability to HIV.”
“Sexual and reproductive health, safer pregnancy, support to mothers and protection from violence – these are the four key objectives of gender-sensitive services that have recently started to be implemented in Eastern Europe. In Russia and Ukraine we start see local governments providing some level of financial support to pilot such program, and we hope that this kind of cooperation between NGOs and local authorities will continue to increase” - said Dasha Ocheret, Deputy Director for Policy and Advocacy at EHRN during the event.
A few hours later, the parallel session titled, “Preventing and eliminating the violence against women: Drug policy reform as a way of violence elimination,” organized by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) and International Gender Policy Network in the framework of the 57th session of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the UN and addressed the issue of state-inflicted violence against women who use drugs.
In the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) repressive drug policies normalize violence. Worldwide, visible progress has been made in addressing violence against women, including adoption of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women that encouraged many countries to develop national legislation addressing acts of gender-based violence. However, such legislation seems to exclude women who use drugs, who are considered first and foremost to be criminals and consequently are subjected to stigma, discrimination and violence. Sergey Votyagov, the Director of EHRN, explained, “Violence, especially at the hands of law enforcement is at the core of drug policies that stigmatize, alienate and allow punishment of people, who often require treatment. Hence policy also dictates the behavior of relatives, who see abuse as appropriate response to drug use. There is a need for leadership at the highest political level to recognize and protect all women, including those who use drugs and remain unprotected by anti-violence laws.“
Two representatives of the drug user community were rejected a United States visa, and could not join the event. However, the participants of the session were provided the testimonies of the two women from the region:
Click here to see the message to the participants of CSW from Ekaterina Gargaphadze, NGO Aceso Georgia.
Click here to see the message to the participants of CSW from Viktoria Lintsova, Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs, Ukraine.
For more information:
- Read one of the many stories of women who use drugs on OSF blog
- EHRN submission to the Special Raporteur on Violence Against Women
For contacts: Dasha Ocheret
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