Representative from Moldova
We must ensure that the rights of women are protected at all times when implementing the drug conventions. Women are more likely than men to acquire HIV and have less access to harm reduction services. They also experience trauma, poverty, domestic violence or fear of the possibility of losing custody of their children. Gender sensitive programmes must be put in place to reach out to vulnerable women. Moldova will continue to ensure gender equality in our national drugs strategy and we will continue to raise awareness on these issues. We will coordinate a monitor all activities in this area. The issue of gender equality is of utmost importance in the post-2015 MDG agenda. The international community should reach out to government on the protection of the rights of women. NGOs also have an important role of sensitisation and implementation of successful programmes for people who use drugs. We encourage all the participants to replicate these awareness messages to reduce violence against women who use drugs.
Ruth Birgin, International Network of Women who Use Drugs & Women’s Harm Reduction International Network
I will present an outline of a policy paper from UNODC. The GA Political Declaration on HIV reduction among people who use drugs led to the reduction of this paper, which includes violence in the wider context of access and rights. UNODC has been working closely with CSOs – EHRN, INWUD, WHRIN, etc. The focus on women is based on a number of critical factors – higher rates of HIV than among men, particular needs different from male IDUs, overlaps with sex work, vertical transmission rates higher among women who inject drugs.
Women have limited or no access to harm reduction and health services, and harm reduction services tend to be tailored to men’s needs. Services don’t respect confidentiality, no trained staff, no childcare, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, no service for gender violence, etc. The criminal justice system is also a significant barrier, as well as police abuse. Drug user registration is also an important barrier. Laws and practices on drug use and loss of child custody are also a violation of reproductive health rights. Services that provide free and non-judgemental care are key for women. The paper includes data on the number of women who use drugs. Funding should also be proportionate to women’s needs. There is a general lack of access and funding to harm reduction services, and this is even worse for women. The paper includes guiding principles on social justice, human rights, access, affordability, meaningful access of women who use drugs in policy making and implementation.
We have recently been doing some work around protecting women from violence. We have actively tried to dig out cases of domestic violence. Our project to reduce violence against women is funded by the government, it has a steering group composed of NGOs, affected populations, etc. These services are a good avenue to reduce domestic violence. We try to normalise the procedure of asking women on domestic violence. Professionals have found the tool important, to have a mandate to ask. We ask very simple questions.We also found that clients might not want to ask truthfully the first time, but this may happen on the second or third time. So we have integrated this experience in the process.
Eka Iakobisvili, Eurasian Harm Reduction Network
Two years ago, we launched a publication at CND on women in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Prevention of Torture mentioned the issue in his last report. In Ukraine, last year, a woman died. Her initial certificate was that she died from AIDS. She gave up her baby, went to prison a number of times, the police raided her home a few times, she was taken to the police station as a witness (but this was not explained so she was treated as a perpetrator), she was beaten up there. She was infected by TB and hep C. She had a big belly so she lied saying that the was pregnant – this was a strategy not to be beaten, but this did happen. She was finally taken to hospital to be treated. But she eventually died in police custody after being beaten up. There is no record of this in her certificate. This story is very generic and we face this every single day. IN Eurasia, 1/4 of women are in prison for petty drug offending. The biggest incarcerators in the world are Russia, USA, Thailand, and this is reflected in the number of women in prison. I Russia, 20,000 women are in prison for drug use. This is more than the entire EU countries gathered. This is followed by Eurasian states. We have a number of litigation cases where we try to promote the rights of women to be respected by the criminal justice system. EHRN also works on police violence issues, and we work to ensure access to shelters for women who use drugs. We use a set of tools, including bringing data to women’s forums and human rights councils and commissions. The Bangkok Rules have also been very useful in that regard. There is a need to advocate for better access to justice for women who use drugs in Eurasia.