By Women4GF

June 26th marks the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This year’s theme is on the creation of healthy and safe environments for children and youth, Listen First- Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe  to increase support for prevention of drug use based on science and thus creating well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities.

Women4GlobalFund (W4GF) and partners bring into focus the voices and lives of women who use drugs. Women who use drugs are often caregivers and are impacted by harmful drug policies that do not support women’s enjoyment of their right to lead full lives together with their families. The connection between the impact of gender inequality on women who use drugs and the impact of punitive legal frameworks must be understood as reinforcing each other. Structural gender inequality impedes the development of effective drug policies that adequately understand and address the rights of women who use drugs. Additionally, punitive legal frameworks under current drug policy regimes reinforce gender inequality and the negative impact of criminalisation is visible in police violence, stigma and stereotyping faced by women who use drugs.

National responses to people who use drugs are often retributive and linked to criminal sanctions. Women who use drugs are more criminalized compared to men who use drugs and face more serious charges leading to tougher sentences. Advocacy campaigns continue to amplify the negative effects of punitive approaches to drug users on prevention and treatment efforts. Support. Don’t Punish. advocates for the decriminalisation of people who use drugs and calls for policy reform to guide treatment and prevention. Punitive measures and draconian laws in many regions, particularly in Eastern Europe and Asia, continue to punish and incarcerate women for possession and drug use. Criminalisation impedes women’s human rights; silences human rights violations and blocks access to services. Women who use drugs are afraid to advocate for themselves and it is often dangerous for advocates to speak on behalf of women who use drugs.