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Women and the drug trade: users and victims

Pompidou Group Rome 26 June 2017
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© Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

On the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Council of Europe’s drug policy experts, The Pompidou Group, highlight the vulnerability  and the role of women in the drug trade at a two-day seminar in Rome.

Held in the National School of Administration in Rome from 26-27 June, the seminar features researchers, policy makers and practitioners from over 25 countries worldwide to assess gender aspects of the drug trade, drug addiction and drug related offenses and punishment.

Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni stresses in a video address to the seminar that “women who experience the coincidence of drug use and violence are among the most marginal voices in our societies” and that their interests and rights “are the most easily ignored.”

Her statement is backed by research.

Acclaimed Mexican researcher Dr. Corina Giacomello, for example, outlines how gender relationships make women the “blue collar workers” of the drug trade in Latin America: “usually the most dispensable and replaceable.”

Furthermore, she stresses, the global female prison population has risen by 50% in the last 15 years while the general prison population by only 20%. Drug offences are the main cause of this increase, with many cases of excessively harsh penalties for drug related crimes committed under duress.

Discussions for the seminar, which is co-organized by the Italian government department for anti-drug policies (Dipartimento politiche antidroga), also focus on how the use of prison as a response to drugs has had a “disproportionately negative impact” on women.

The seminar examines as well the relationship between alcohol and illicit drugs and sexual assault – and analytical and interpretive “pitfalls” in researching that relationship.

Another challenge, according to a Pompidou Group working group, is a lack of available data, in too many countries, to assess the relationship between rape drugs and violence against women.

The Pompidou Group’s work to facilitate drug assistance programmes for women in Mediterranean and North African countries is also highlighted as are other good practices. For example, participants from Italy, Spain and Sweden explain their work to introduce the “gender dimension” into national drug strategies.