South Africa: Plight of Women Who Use Drugs Laid Bare


Factoring in the already-patriarchal perceptions of women in South Africa, and combined with drug use, female drug users are not only classed as invisible, but are also seen as unfit members of society, and treated as such.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has compiled a needs assessment report of women who use drugs (WWUD) in four cities in South Africa - Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. The report highlights the plight of women who use drugs and how they actively seek to take charge of their lives.

More often than not, women are viewed as victims of drug use, but the narratives in this report reveal women claiming back their autonomy while communicating their lived experiences.

The report shows that women who use drugs suffer many human rights abuses. Some of the participants in the study were subject to extreme levels of sexual violence and sexual rights violations.

Furthermore, they experience high levels of stigma from service providers, leading to a denial of access to health services. Another phenomenon is the physical violence and aggression during law enforcement and security raids and forced removals, as well as sexual favours demanded by law enforcement agencies. Issues...

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