Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries (UNODC)

Regional webinar on Police response to gender-based violence towards women who use drugs

Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Women who use drugs are three-to-five times more likely to experience gender-based violence than women in general. 

According to the UNODC world drug report (Women and Drugs, 2018) although fewer women use and inject drugs than men – women account for 20 per cent of the global estimate of people who inject drugs – in terms of risks, women who use drugs have a greater vulnerability.  Women tend to develop the medical and social consequences of drug use faster than men.  Higher stigma faced by female drug users, and lack of gender-sensitive treatment facilities lead to a deficit in women’s access to treatment. 

Such barriers may include punitive and discriminatory practices by police and health care professionals.

Criminalization of drug use often means that when faced with gender-based violence, women who use drugs suffer structural abuse at the hands of police officers, health and social services, instead of being given protection. Instead of providing security and support services police may charge a woman with drug use and trafficking and also inform social services which may lead to loss of parental rights. 

UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring countries, in collaboration with Eurasian Harm Reduction Association, UNODC Gender Team and Justice Section organized a webinar on police response to gender-based violence towards women who use drugs for police officers from the Central and Western Asian countries held on 22 June 2022.

The regional webinar is aimed at building capacity and knowledge about effective police approaches in provision of help and protection to women using drugs in case of domestic and intimate partner violence.  

During the webinar there was an opportunity to learn about internationally recommended approaches and best practices of police response focused on ensuring security and referral to health, social care services and shelters for women.  A presentation of UNODC handbook on gender-responsive police services was also delivered to the participants.