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The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says that there is a need to tackle the gender gap in the national policy and programmes on drugs of countries while calling on governments to take into account the specific needs of drug-dependent women.

Although measures must be taken to ensure their rights and the protection of their families, unfortunately many drug-related policies and programmes worldwide fall short in this regard.

The INCB’s Annual Report for last year was launched this week. It revealed that female prisoners and sex workers (engaging in prostitution to support one’s habit which some of them have developed in an attempt to cope with the demands and the nature of their work) were in particular at a high risk of engaging in drug use.

Although women and girls account for one-third of the world’s drug users, only one in five recipients of treatment for drug use is female. Women who take drugs are often stigmatized and discriminated. The past 15 years have seen a major increase in the number of women arrested for drug related offences. It must be noted that when women are imprisoned, their family life is often greatly disrupted.

In an op-ed titled ‘Women and drugs: a hidden global concern’ penned by president of the INCB, Werner Sipp, it is further noted that many drug-dependent women lacked the opportunity to access treatment and shelter (housing) or were prevented from doing so.

Sex workers are stigmatized and made to feel discomfort due to the judgmental attitudes of others.

Sipp added that all over the world drug-dependent women are estranged from their families and ostracized from their communities and are left without any support. Some live on the streets with their children.