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For more information, contact Eric Oliver at (202) 797-2171 or 

Globally, there are an estimated 625,000 women and girls deprived of liberty, either awaiting or serving a sentence. In the past few years, the population of women prisoners has increased at a faster rate than that of their male counterparts. In Latin America, the incarceration rate for women has almost doubled from 40,000 in 2006 to 74,000 in 2010.

In a report on the current status of women and their participation in the illicit drugs trade, the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) shows that the majority of women imprisoned in the Americas are deprived of their liberty for drug-related crimes. Most of these women are awaiting a trial, and despite being presumed innocent, are held in “pre-trial detention.” Among other issues, the research paper discusses how the women who participate in the drug trade tend to do so at the lowest levels of the commercialization chain, many as a result of poverty and/or coercion. Long term imprisonment of women who are also mothers creates a separation which can be damaging to their dependent children and can lead to the breakdown of families.

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) has published a paper on women, drug-related crime, and prisons in Latin America  that discusses how women’s participation in the commercialization chain of the illegal drug market is different than that of men, as are their experiences of penitentiary systems. The report explains the factors that contribute to the role of women as easily replaceable, lower-level actors within transnational criminal networks for drug trafficking and describes the particular challenges, violence, and abuse that they face when incarcerated. IDPC proposes a series of policy responses, including sentencing reform and alternatives to incarceration for women convicted of low-level, non-violent drug offenses.

The two studies highlight that the issue of women and drugs in the Americas needs to be approached from a perspective that is sensitive to gender differences, especially when designing and implementing drug laws and policies.

This roundtable, organized by the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the OAS, The OAS's Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM/OAS), the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), will explore the increased participation of women in all spheres of the illicit drugs market, as well as the gender dynamics of their involvement, and the need to rethink the hemispheric approach to the issue from a human rights and gender perspective. It will bring together experts in drug policy from government, civil society, academia, and the international community.

Organization of American States
Hall of the Americas
17th and Constitution N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006

2:30 p.m. - 2:40 p.m.
Opening Remarks
 José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS

2:40 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.
Welcome and Panel Introduction
 Ambassador Milton Romani Gerner, Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the OAS

2:50 p.m. - 3:10 p.m.
Keynote Speech
Gabriela Olivera, National Drugs Secretariat, Uruguay

3:10 p.m. - 4:10 p.m.
Roundtable: “Women, Drugs, Prisons, and Human Rights”
        Corina Giacomello, International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)
Nischa Pieris, Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM/OAS)
Rosa Julia Leyva, National Security Commission, Ministry of the Interior, Mexico
Gabriela Olivera, National Drugs Secretariat, Uruguay

Moderator: Coletta Youngers, IDPC and WOLA

4:10 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Plenary debate

5:00 p.m.
 Closing Remarks
Adam Blackwell, Secretary, Secretariat for Multidimensional Security/OAS

Reception to follow in the Galería de los Heroes, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the OAS

Simultaneous interpretation will be provided.

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