Home » Side Event: Support. Don’t Punish – Voices for drug policy reform from Asia (Film première)

Side Event: Support. Don’t Punish – Voices for drug policy reform from Asia (Film première)


Panel and Q&A following film:

Read more side event information here.

Gloria Lai, IDPC: Thanks for attending. I hope you enjoyed the film. Opens to the floor.

Audience member: Looking at the three countries that have been reviewed here. It seems that the problem of drug abuse is affecting poor people. It is the tip of an iceberg. We have got a lot of work to do.

Gloria Lai, IDPC: What we have tried to do with this film is to highlight the most marginalized in society. We want to show what works for them, and what can be changed to meet these needs.

Edo Agustian Nasution, PKNI: Thanks Gloria. I come from Indonesia, a country with highly punitive drug laws, with plans to put drug users in jails defended by wild animals. A country that suggests we punish traffickers and users by making them swallow their own drug supply until they die. They also suggested getting drug users shot by army officials. We declared a war on drugs 9 months ago. We were having difficulty distributing needle exchange and services. there is a a big problem with corruption. We are ‘trying to clean the house with a dirty broom’. There is a punitive war on drugs sweeping across my region. Asia is well behind in terms of drug policy reform. Our governments are far less open. This is a the good time for us to unite and strategies together on how to tackle these problems. How do we tackle these ridiculous policies?

Edo Agustian Nasution, from Indonesian Network of Drug Users (PKNI), addresses the audience
Edo, from Indonesian Network of Drug Users (PKNI), addresses the audience

Gloria Lai, IDPC: Not sure if superman and batman can be called out to help on this one. There truly  some are absurd policies.

Inez Feria, NoBox Transitions, (Philippines): we offer drug services that embrace harm reduction. What we do is engage with a son, for example, and try and understand things from his perspective. We realize problems can be about his girlfriend for example, rather than about drugs. We found parents that wanted to drug test their children. There should be no need to do this. Children should feel like they are in an environment where they can talk about their drug use. It is this, respect and trust, that we should nurture. Once this is achieved, then we can identity challenges and plans of action. Drug use is a crime in the Philippines. 1st offense can go to rehabilitation services, but a 2nd offense means jail, and conditions are very bad as prisons are 500% over capacity, with some even dying in this context. In the Philippines, if you have a joint or a pill, you can get the death penalty (which is worse than punishments reserved for murder in some cases). Thankfully the death penalty has been removed, but they now face life in imprisonment. However, with an election coming up there are calls for reinstating the death penalty for drug policy. There is a huge problem of stigma associated with drug use. Simplified into ‘drug use is bad’ – and therefore drugs should not exist. It is still not clear to them that drug use does not exist in a vacuum. The challenges are many, but this means the opportunities are just as many. Harm reduction has taught us there is no situation which is hopeless. It is important to bring different points of view and different approaches and perspectives. [Quotes a drug user who has used Harm Reduction services provided by NoBox]: “it was kindness that i got from them, showing me that I’m capable of being loved and loving…. harm reduction works”.

Gloria Lai, IDPC: Thanks for that powerful presentation.

Simon Beddoe, India HIV/AIDS Alliance (India): I have said too much already in the video. It is important that drug users feel safe when using drugs. The only people who feel safe are ‘drug types’. It makes people who do not fit into narrow categories not feel safe when they take drugs. We need reform that reinforces this safety. We have millions of drugs users in India. At the moment it is good to have and HIV program. We should be grateful for the HIV issues, simply because we can get a harm reduction policy, we can get our foot in the door. The only saving grace we have is the HIV policy. Our government is critical of the HIV policy, because they consider OST as a criminal offense, it is a grey area in the law. It is rare that one gvt. official is disconnected from another gvt. official, it is hard to get them all sat round a table, particularly getting them in a room with communities and drug users. I think we are moving in the right direction – pushes for decriminalization are happening, things are moving slowly but more and more  people are listening to drug users.

Gloria Lai, IDPC: Thanks for reminding us that when harm reduction is just about HIV, that is a valuable starting point.

Audience Member: we are concerned about violence. I want to ask a specific question. is there any connection, with anther country, like the USA, and in any way encouraging this, or people being tortured? Are we really just setting up the situation for more drug use and problematic problems. What can we do to stop this execution and murder?

Edo Agustian Nasution, PKNI Indonesian Drug Users Network: I feel if the US intervened in Indonesia for example, it would bring about a lot of change.  It was already stated by public policy makers that they don’t have to obey human rights. They say those who use drugs don’t obey human rights, so we will not obey human rights laws surrounding them. 1.5 months ago, two friends of mine, they were killed by law enforcement. 150 police versus 1 or 2 people with Airsoft gun. So this murder happens. In past 2 months we have had bad issue with LGBT, government want to kill them and cook them in boiling water. They have tried to stop LGBT funding coming in. I think the same thing could threaten drug policy advocacy.

Simon Bedoe, India HIV/AIDS Alliance (India)Countries like the US has to be more vocal about their positions. I feel that if the US government and their positions were clear, and not in a way forceful, but clear. There should be a way to take action following the condemnation of human rights violations.

Speaker from Christian Aid: Bolivia and other countries will not receive USAID if they do not implement a war on drugs. Anti-communist groups that they were supporting in the fight against communism, they were permitted to grow and sell opium to fund their war. So there position is unclear.

Murtaza Majeed, Youth Rise: with reference to Holy Sea. There is a gap between those who support harm reduction, and those that don’t. They do not realise that harm reduction is not just giving clean needles.

Gloria Lai, IDPC: Religious leaders have an important role, and they can in some cases create significant barriers.

Closes event.

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