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ID: 865

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Advocacy

Topics: Women, Drug Use and Harm Reduction

Presenting author: Anna Dovbakh

Presenting author biography:

No biography entered.

Punitive drug policies and women’s rights: empowering women who use drugs to address violence in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Erika Matuizaite, Irena Ermolaeva, Olga Ponomarova, Oksana Buzovici, Anna Dovbakh

Issue: Violence against women who us drugs (WUD) is widespread in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA). Studies show that 90% of WUD in our region have experienced physical, sexual or economic violence at the hand of police, their partners or family members. Police violence against criminalized women is especially problematic, given that police play the role of first responders to violence against women. Fear of police makes it extremely difficult for women to report violence, seek justice and demand their human rights. These violations have grave impacts on WUD health, in particular for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis.

Setting: Countries of CEECA

Project: In 2014-2016 Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) with local partners from 16 CEECA cities implemented a regional campaign “Women Against Violence” aimed at empowering WUD to combat police violence. In total 850 cases of police violence against WUD have been submitted through a specifically designed online platform in Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia. The campaign included also other initiatives, like the street lawyers program, activist study tours to human rights and drug policy programs and forums, scholarships and small grants programs and other community based advocacy activities. These programs have proven themselves to be effective tools in mobilizing and strengthening WUD movements across CEECA.

Outcome: A team of female leaders advocating for better WUD human rights protection, including better access to harm reduction services, development of gender-oriented services has been established. The campaign also laid the foundation for discussions on alternatives to arrest, incarceration for individuals who have committed nonviolent drug-related offenses and the extension of services, including harm reduction services, instead of this.