The Pompidou Group, perceived as a pioneer in Europe regarding the integration of the gender dimension into drug policies, has always called for better understanding of both gender specific differences.


Pompidou Group’s first event in Mexico focuses on gender dimension in drug policy

As part of its activity “Introducing gender dimension in drug policies”, the Pompidou Group organises, in co-operation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES), an International Conference entitled “Mainstreaming a gender perspective in drug policy” in Mexico City, on 22-23 February 2018, which will bring together experts and policy makers from 12 European and Latin-American countries, as well as representatives of international organisations and NGOs.

The conference aims to analyse the negative effects and consequences women face in respect of the drug chain, such as the unequal access to health care and social services, the double stigma of being female drug consumer, the disproportionate criminal sanctions leading to impoverishment, marginalisation and crime, as well as the lack of gender-sensitive social reintegration programs, especially of those targeting the family and children of women incarcerated for drug-related offences.

Seminar “Women and Drugs: from policy to good practice” Rome, 26-27 June 2017, National School of Administration

This event, co-organised by the Italian Department for Anti-Drug Policies (Dipartimento politiche antidroga) and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe, took place on 26 June, on the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The importance of appropriately mainstream gender in drug-related policies and programmes is recognized in the outcome document of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem and in the CND 59/5 resolution on mainstreaming a gender perspective in drug related policies and programmes.

At the opening of the seminar by Ms Maria Elena Boschi, Undersecretary of State, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Ms. Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, stressed in a video address that “women who experience the coincidence of drug use and violence are among the most marginal voices in our societies” and that their interest and rights “are the most easily ignored”.

Her statement is backed by the policy-makers, researchers and practitioners who present good practices in women and drug addiction research, prevention, care and treatment and, drug related offences with the ultimate aim of integrating a gender dimension in drug policy. To this end, Italy, Spain and Sweden present how the gender dimension is introduced into their national drug strategies.

Drug-facilitated sexual assaults

Beginning in 2016, the Pompidou Group has spearheaded an activity to understand sexual violence against women enabled by rape drugs and its implications. Seventeen experts from fifteen countries, as well as a representative from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), are participating in this activity. The group’s phase one working plan included collecting data regarding the prevalence of DFSA cases, reviewing existing findings and case law, and reviewing existing national law regarding rape and sexual assault. Additional work includes a draft report on Violence, Women and Rape Drugs and a working group meeting to discuss the report and the progress of the activity, which convened in Rome on 27 June 2017.

Sexual violence against women enabled by rape drugs can be described as a complex socio-legal phenomenon. It is well known that rape is one of the “darkest dark figures” of crime and the situation for incidents/cases of sexual assaults that occur after the intoxication of the victim is even worse.

The term “rape drugs” describes the phenomenon of using drugs to induce people - and especially women - to submit to sexual activity without their consent. The most used terminology for this topic is “drug-facilitated sexual assaults” (DFSA), “date-rape drugs” (DRDs) or “knockout drugs”. According to the definition adopted by the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2007, drug-facilitated sexual assault includes ‘all forms of non-consensual penetrative sexual activity whether it involves the forcible or covert administration of an incapacitating or disinhibiting substance by an assailant, for the purposes of serious sexual assault; as well as sexual activity by an assailant with a victim who is profoundly intoxicated by his or her own actions to the point of near or actual unconsciousness’ (ACDM, 2007).

Gender Dimension of non-medical use of prescription drugs

In recent years, the non-medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) has caused increasing public concern around the globe. Women constitue a special risk category for NMUPD and understanding gender as it relates to NMUPD is now a critical requirement for effective policy and practice.

Understanding gender as it relates to drug use and drug use disorders is a critical requirement to developing effective policy and practice responses. This study aims to explore the gender dimension of non-medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) in Europe and the Mediterranean region and continues to build on the corpus of knowledge on the subject and also help identify gaps.

In November 2013, the PCs welcomed the initiative by Italy to launch and fund a gender specific project covering Europe and the Mediterranean Region to study the gender dimension of non medical use of prescription drugs. Within less than a year, this first study was carried out.

Intended primarily for policy makers and researchers, this Pompidou Group Gender dimension publications aim to explore gender specificities in terms of use and misuse of prescription drugs in Europe and the Mediterranean region. Using secondary sources, it also seeks to to identify gaps in the data available in the area covered and to make recommendations for further research, for coherent policy development and effective gender sensitive practice.

Women, Drugs and Violence

The lives of women who use drugs are punctuated by traumas and violence suffered during childhood or adulthood. These women form a minority of the patients seen by addiction- management and risk and harm-reduction professionals, who mainly take care of men. The 2015 Council of Europe publication The gender dimension of nonmedical use of prescription drugs in Europe and in the Mediterranean region called for a better understanding of the link between drug use among women and violence. A review of literature on violence experienced by women who use drugs established that, among the general population, drug users are confronted more with violence and that their drug use increases when violence is experienced, in particular among women. In order to give this research an operational perspective, the Pompidou Group, at the initiative of Italy, launched a consultation process among professionals in four countries: France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

This document presents the recommendations of the study, which aim at improving care for women who use drugs and are victims of violence. The professionals interviewed ask policy makers, first and foremost, to recognise the link between violence and psychoactive substance use, by including the question of violence in national drug strategies and programmes and by including the question of addiction to psychoactive substances in national strategies and programmes for combating violence against women.