En la medida en que la crisis del COVID-19 empeora la situación de violencia de género, el apoyo de pares ofrece una alternativa de salvación para mujeres que consumen drogas. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.

Reports from Kenya suggest violence against women who use drugs rose during the COVID-19 lockdown, fuelled by tensions as incomes disappeared and couples found themselves in close confinement with one another.

Both men and women who use drugs are also being unfairly blamed and beaten for petty crimes, often without evidence, which are on the increase due to a lack of wages.

But Kenyan partners from the Partnership to Inform, Transpire and Connect the HIV response (PITCH) are finding ways to address the situation. To link women to various forms of support they have formed a response team with police and a referral system with legal and medical services. Peer workers are also receiving training in counselling, mediation and conflict resolution, while advocacy is underway to ensure the lockdown experiences of women who use drugs are being heard and understood.

“Gender-based violence has escalated during lockdown, it has taken a turn for the worse,” says John Kimani, director of the Kenya Network of People using Drugs (KeNPUD). “Before, these cases [of violence] were there but there were not as many and they were not as extreme.

“We are seeing an increase in women becoming homeless as a result of this. Fewer women are also accessing healthcare, particularly antenatal care, for fear of emotional or verbal abuse.”

In Nairobi it is common for women who use drugs to engage in sex work to support themselves, their partner and their children. But Bernice Apondi, Policy Manager at VOCAL Kenya, says lockdown made sex work impossible as bars and lodges where many women find business shut down and curfews meant people were no longer allowed on the street.