By Kasia Malinowska and Bethany Medley

Catalina was in prison for a drug conviction in Guaviare, Colombia. She had been detained for possessing some coca paste­ – an amount barely sufficient to economically support herself and her two young children for a few weeks. She didn’t know where her children were, or if they were being cared for, and had no idea when she would be released. 

In Tajikistan, Anya recently learned that she was HIV positive. She said she had been an injecting drug user for three years, and often used with her partner, who was physically and emotionally abusive. Her partner would often inject himself first and then pass on the equipment to her. Anya suspects this is how she contracted HIV.

Many people see drug use and participation in drug-related trade as a global problem meriting punishment. Unfortunately, poorly designed drug policies can worsen violence rather than diminish it, contribute to epidemics of HIV and HCV (Hepatitis C), and violate human rights. The most common consequences of drug policies, whether focusing on the supply or the demand side, bring disproportionate harm to women and girls.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC RockyRejas