Women Who Use Drugs

Women who use drugs (WUD) in EECA do not have equal access to health and harm reduction services. Social stereotypes and perceptions about a woman’s role in the family and society have prompted massive and systematic violence against WUD, including double stigma and structural discrimination in many countries. Gender-sensitive harm reduction services are largely absent for WUD and they are rarely represented in policy discussions.

Women represent approximately 20% of all people who use drugs in EECA and in some countries the percentage is even higher (Russian Federation 30%; Ukraine 26%). Rates of HIV are higher among women who inject drugs than their male counterparts: data from Europe indicates that HIV rates among these women may be 50% higher than their male peers.

Women who use drugs around the world share experiences of specific and additional barriers to accessing services when compared with their male peers. The EECA region is no exception in this regard and significant inequality has been documented in accessing harm reduction services. In 2013 only one woman received OST in Azerbaijan. Similarly, in 2013 in Belarus the proportion of women accessing OST services was 27% (145 people), but women cannot access OST in maternity clinics and they are left to give birth in a state of withdrawal. In countries where harm reduction services exist, they are not tailored to the needs of women and therefore ignore the specific needs of women who use drugs and/or live with HIV.

Women are disproportionately affected by the removal of parental rights, have inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health services (especially during pregnancy), and face increased levels of violence either from the police or in domestic settings. The multiple and compounded stigma faced by women makes them more susceptible and vulnerable to HIV and other infectious diseases.

EHRN invites its members and external partners to join the campaign on violence against women who use drugs and highlight barriers these women face in accessing harm reduction services as well as healthcare provision generally. EHRN has been cooperating with the International Gender Policy Network (IGPN) to promote a series of regional level activities, including development of policy assessments and related training, delivering technical support to national partners on the development of gender sensitive services, and supporting advocacy campaigns that address gender equality and challenge gender-based violence. EHRN continues to invite women who use drugs themselves to be key partners so that women’s voices can be engaged in decision-making both at a policy and service level. EHRN has particularly supported this work through its small grants program.

Women who use drugs in EECA: Epidemiological situation and access to HIV prevention and  treatment services in 6 countries (click on the map below)

 Women who use drugs in EECA: Epidemiological situation and  gender specific HIV prevention and treatment services in some EECA cities (click on the map below)

Global Innovative Approaches: policy briefs to analyze programs specifically tailored toward women in conditions of vulnerability.

Drug user activist Viktoria Linstove speaks about women's rights and drug policy in Ukraine
Video HCLU: Cause for Alarm: The Incarceration of Women for Drug Offences in Europe and Central Asia
Captured emotions after speech at 24th Session of the CCPCJ 2015