HRI welcomes the opportunity to submit information to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) ahead of its review of the periodic report of South Africa and the adoption of the List of Issues Prior to Reporting at its 77th Session (2-6 March 2020). This submission considers the rights of women who use drugs, by providing background information and reporting on violations denounced by women in Durban.
The analysis is based on primary qualitative research conducted by HRI and the South African Network of People who Use Drugs (SANPUD) in Durban, South Africa, in 2019 (to be published in early 2020). The research revealed that women who use drugs in Durban experience violence, abuse, and discrimination, most acutely from law enforcement officers. These widespread and recurring violations appear to be rooted in the criminalisation of drugs, and in the profound stigma attached to drug use (women systematically reported of being treated as ‘animals’, called ‘paras’ as shorthand for parasites, and seen by police and prison staff as ‘frogs’ or ‘cockroaches’).