Les femmes et leurs familles sont affectées de manière disproportionnée par les peines sévères infligées pour les infractions liées à la drogue. Pour en savoir plus, en anglais, veuillez lire les informations ci-dessous.

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By Maya Thomas-Davis

When Lorena was offered the job of transporting marijuana from her village in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas to Mexico City, the 25-year-old took the opportunity.

“It was an income that allowed us to eat, to buy milk,” she explains.

Lorena has spent the past three years in prison for transporting drugs. Her son lives with her behind bars, since she is his primary carer. She has a 10-year sentence to serve, with no access to sentence reduction or parole, which are indiscriminately denied to drug offenders.

Thousands of stories like Lorena’s lie behind the alarming number of women imprisoned for drug crimes in Mexico, where they account for 53% of incarcerated women at the federal level. Of these women, 43% are indigenous: a disproportionate number given they make up only 5% of Mexico’s overall female prison population.

Lorena’s sentence is excessively punitive. Yet this is a norm – even a minimum – for drug crimes in Latin America: at great cost to states, women and their communities.

The number of women in prison in Latin America is at a high, and growing at more than double the rate of male prisoners (pdf). Most women are jailed for non-violent drug offences, and share a similar profile: they are first-time offenders; sole carers for children and other dependants; have had minimal access to education and little formal employment; and in many cases they have experienced gender-based violence.

This policy is part of the war on drugs whose disastrous terms were set by the US more than 50 years ago, and continue to be shaped by US initiatives. From the notoriously militaristic Plan Colombia, to the more recent Mérida initiative (nicknamed Plan Mexico), these programmes have been shown to serve US territorial, economic and political interests while escalating human costs in Latin America.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC Janne Heinonen