Harm Reduction International Statement on Women at the 17th Plenary Meeting - 20th session of the UN Human Rights Council

Date: 28 June 2012

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(Agenda item 2 & 3 – General Discussion on the rights of women)


Thank you Mr President,

June 26 is the UN day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.

If previous years are anything to go by it would be marked by death sentences being passed in some of the thirty-two countries that retain the death penalty for drug offences.

The day would be just another spent in prison for the one third of all women in prison who are there for non-violent drug offences

It would be another UN day against drugs spent by tens of thousands of women in a drug detention centres – incarcerated for years, suffering physical and sexual abuse and without any form of due process.

This year’s UN day against drugs will see more women denied access to healthcare because they are drug users, the custody of their children threatened, their names entered onto data registries from which few will ever be removed, and their health information shared with police.

In many countries the crops of subsistence farmers would be destroyed with chemicals sprayed from the air or by teams of armed men and because of this more women will be displaced, suffer ill-health, food insecurity, and find themselves at risk of violence and rape.

This year’s UN day against drugs would see more women dead in drug related violence.

It would also see a special thematic debate at the UN General Assembly focusing on drugs and crime as a threat to development. While this is a welcome debate, the questions raised are wrong.

What would have been discussed in New York yesterday is how the drug trade poses a threat to development.

Indeed, this is now undeniable.

But what will likely go unquestioned is the negative role of drug enforcement on development and human rights, including the rights of women.

We urge members of the Council to pay attention to this debate and hold a similar one here on the human rights implications of drug control.

We must count the costs of the war on drugs - for human rights, for development, and for women.

It is not sufficient to blindly accept that the way in which the war on drugs has been fought is a positive force for human rights, and the rights of women.

The evidence from the past decades and the experiences of too many women speak to the contrary.

Thank you Mr President!

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