Eliminating drug using women from the ultimate elimination statement!

Many of you have heard of places like Project Prevention in the USA, where women who use drugs are paid around $300 in cash to be sterilized, (far lesser amounts for choosing ordinary contraception) and we also know of women using drug’s being encouraged, cajoled, harassed, threatened and bullied into having abortions simply because of their drug use  – which can even be instigated or supported by various government agencies in some jurisdictions and institutions around the globe. The USA, Australia and Sweden are just a few of the more shiny but shameful  examples…..

Strong Women

A great picture from a feminist blog with some great imagery and text. Click for more info

So it was great to see this statement has been released below, BUT on reading through, it identifies population groups most affected, but then fails to mention women who use drugs?  How very disappointing! Please see below –
Ruth Birgin from WHRIN (Women’s Harm Reduction International Network) – The address for the listserve and how to become a member of both WHRIN and INWUD (International Network of Women who Use Drugs will be appearing very shortly, so please check back)
NOTE: Thanks so much for this Ruth, in fact Project Prevention and its’ sister groups are so abhorrent and such is the extended, even open use and abuse of this tactic against women who use drugs, that to not find anything about this group within this document was nothing short of incredibly disappointing. Especially as it proclaims to be a concise inter agency document of some repute; alliances with OHCHR, UN Women, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO all worked on this publication. Grounded in ‘scientific evidence and drawing on lessons learnt from historical and contemporary practices’, this document is clearly carefully ‘anchored in international human rights norms and standards.’
So make no mistake, this is much needed piece of kit. It is in itself a new tool, a hammer blow that comes crashing down on any of the enforced sterilization ‘grey areas’ that exist in so many misogynistic and controlling, societies and communities and clearly states where the global face stands on these issues. As I said, much needed ammunition. The document also highlights much needed guiding principles for the prevention and elimination of coercive sterilization and also provides us with “recommendations for legal, policy and service-delivery actions”.
Yet, despite all this good stuff, it remains somewhat disappointing underneath because, while openly acknowledging disabled persons/women and girls, women living with HIV, ethnic and minority girls and women and transgender and intersex persons as the examples of persons most affected by such abhorrent practices of coerced/coercive sterilization, they left out us…
A glaring omission many would say as across the world women who use drugs are coerced, bullied, cajoled, abused, hit and harassed into not only sterilization, but enforced abortions, adoptions, fostering, and pre and post natal discrimination so intense that some women won’t even go to hospital to deliver their babies for fear of what may happen. (Project Prevention is  a project that is globally supported and growing and funded by hundreds of thousands of American dollars).
Just two days ago in full view of the media,  a Tennessee woman is the first to be charged under yet another harmful state law that specifically makes it a crime to take drugs while pregnant, calling it “assault.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is actively seeking to challenge the law, which they describe as raising “serious constitutional concerns regarding equal treatment under the law.”

Another law busting women who use drugs for having children. Coercive, enforced? Harmful discrimination? Judicial management of a woman’s right over her own body and that of being able to keep her child?

All this and more must signal work ahead for women’s rights and the urgent need to find entry points for changing our systems – work for us and many of us all to do.  This is why dear readers, when such a document as this global, respectable inter-agency one on enforced sterilization omits women who use drugs, it sets us back a few hard years unnecessarily. A few paragraphs acknowledging the reproductive reality for women who use drugs, on the streets, in rehabs, in boot-camps, in prisons, in misogynistic communities, and a few clear statements underlining our right to reproductive freedom, could be an even more unique and useful tool for us.
Because while we are essentially criminalized as illicit drug users, and then ignored or forgotten about (?) in important documents such as this one on such a crucial life subject as enforced sterilization, we will always be confronted with a smirk and a kind of ‘get out clause’ that governments and institutions can use to ignore or slip away from our attempts to challenge them on our own varied episodes of enforced sterilization, etc.
Thank you for spotting this Ruth from WHRIN. Contact them for further discussion on their forum and/or become a member. 
The document……

UN organizations call for an end to forced, coercive and involuntary sterilization

(Note: Yay UN! But…You forgot something essential dintcha?…..Erin)

Date: 18 June 2014
The World Health Organization (WHO), along with OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women, have issued a statement on Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization”. It reaffirms that sterilization as a method of contraception and family planning should be available, accessible to all, of good quality and free from discrimination, coercion and violence.
Sterilization is one of the most widely used forms of contraception in the world and, when performed according to appropriate standards, is an important option for individuals and couples to control their fertility. However, in some countries, people belonging to certain population groups, including people living with HIV, persons with disabilities, indigenous people’s and ethnic minorities, and transgender and intersex persons, continue to be sterilized without their full, free and informed consent. While both men and women are subject to such practices, women and girls continue to be disproportionately impacted.
The inter-agency statement highlights guiding principles for the prevention and elimination of coercive sterilization, and provides recommendations for legal, policy and service-delivery actions to ensure that the provision of procedures resulting in sterilization is based on the full, free and informed decision-making of the person concerned.
The document itself can be found here: Click here

About Erin

Freelance writer and journalist for the global drug user press
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1 Response to Eliminating drug using women from the ultimate elimination statement!

  1. Ruth says:

    no worries Erin. I am also a member of INWUD as are several WHRIN/INWUD members – great to have a mechanism like WHRIN for women who use drugs to work together with other interested parties.


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