The Drug Policy in the Americas From a Gender Perspective
- Helena Salim de CastroHelena Salim de CastroPhD candidate, Interinstitutional Graduate Program in International Relations “San Tiago Dantas” (UNESP, UNICAMP, PUC-SP), and Professor of International Relations at Universidade Paulista (UNIP)
In the early 21st century, the number of women incarcerated in Latin America for drug-related offenses has increased dramatically. Many women are engaging in drug trafficking for different reasons, and in most cases, they play inferior roles in the drug supply chain, working as couriers or carrying drugs inside their bodies, which make them vulnerable to the justice system. This increase in female incarceration is one of the consequences of a repressive and prohibitive framework against the use and trafficking of drugs in the Americas. The “War on Drugs” policy was developed in the 1970s by the U.S. government, almost 50 years ago. This policy spread a regional fight against drug use and trafficking, which was reinforced by the United Nations Conventions on Drugs and committees of the Organization of American States.
Even though some international and regional organizations and government institutions have been alarmed by the increase in female incarceration rates, the discussions and documents concerning this issue have some gaps. As analyzed by a feminist and gender literature, stereotypes about femininity persist. The official documents consider women mere victims in the drug world and do not debate their reasons for entering criminality, as an economic necessity, for example. In the same sense, little effort has been made by governments to change the actual repressive anti-drug policy. Focusing just on the lowest level of the drug supply chain, the “War on Drugs” policy continues to drive many people, especially women, younger, and black poor people, to jail.