New Straits Times - - Letters -

place to live in a hous­ing cen­tre for women and a job, the money from which she en­trusted to her friend for safe­keep­ing out of fear that she may be tempted to use it to buy coca paste again. Her main con­cern now was rais­ing her son and plan­ning for his fu­ture, and she told us that com­ing to the treat­ment ser­vice had al­lowed her to re­gain con­trol of her life.

Un­for­tu­nately, un­like AnaPaula, many drug-de­pen­dent women do not have the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess treat­ment and shel­ter, or are pre­vented from do­ing so. All over the world, drugde­pen­dent women are os­tracised from their com­mu­ni­ties and left with­out sup­port. Al­though women and girls ac­count for one-third of global drug users, only one in five drug treat­ment re­cip­i­ents is fe­male. Women who take drugs are of­ten stig­ma­tised and dis­crim­i­nated. For this rea­son, the In­ter­na­tional Nar­cotic Con­trol Board’s An­nual Re­port for 2016 em­pha­sises the need for drug poli­cies and pro­grammes that take women into ac­count.

For drug poli­cies to be truly ef­fec­tive, we have to con­sider the dis­tinct sit­u­a­tions of men and women. Gov­ern­ments need to take the spe­cific needs of drugde­pen­dent women into ac­count to en­sure their rights and those of their fam­i­lies are pro­tected. Un­for­tu­nately, many drug-re­lated poli­cies and pro­grammes world­wide still fall short in this re­gard.

Our re­port shows that fe­male pris­on­ers and sex work­ers are at par­tic­u­larly high risk of drug use.

If we look at the past 15 years, we see a ma­jor in­crease in the number of women ar­rested for drug-re­lated of­fences and, once im­pris­oned, fe­male pris­on­ers are much more likely to be­come drug users than men. When women are im­pris­oned, fam­ily life is of­ten greatly dis­rupted.

There is a strong link be­tween sex work and drug use. Women may turn to sex work to sup­port a drug-de­pen­dent life­style, while sex work­ers may use drugs to cope with the de­mands and na­ture of their work. Sex work­ers in many parts of the world are pre­vented from ac­cess­ing treat­ment due to stigma, judg­men­tal at­ti­tudes as

Not for­get­ting the cap­tain of the ship, Eric Ong, who would have needed to be­lieve the story and en­dure chal­lenges to make this film be­cause this was clearly not made with the aim of break­ing box of­fice records, but rather con­nect to hearts and put across a mes­sage. Hats off to the team. If this is a sam­ple of your out­put, then more great things will come.

Fi­nally, to the au­di­ence and cin­ema fans, this is un­like other well as the dis­com­fort felt by the women them­selves in pre­dom­i­nantly male-at­tended treat­ment cen­tres. Drug-de­pen­dent women with chil­dren may also be re­luc­tant to ac­cess treat­ment out of fear that they will be seen as un­fit moth­ers and that their chil­dren will be taken from them.

One-size-fits-all drug poli­cies are not enough. We need bet­ter­in­formed poli­cies, a more ef­fi­cient al­lo­ca­tion of sorely needed re­sources and preven­tion pro­grammes that are tar­geted specif­i­cally at preg­nant women, sex work­ers, peo­ple liv­ing with HIV/AIDS and pris­on­ers.

All this is es­sen­tial if we want to pro­tect and im­prove the health and well­be­ing of women, and move closer to a so­lu­tion to the world’s drug prob­lem. It is my hope that this will ul­ti­mately give more women like Ana-Paula the chance to re­gain con­trol of their lives and pro­vide brighter fu­tures for them and their fam­i­lies.


Pres­i­dent, In­ter­na­tional Nar­cotics Con­trol Board

su­per­hero movies with state-ofthe-art com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery, spec­tac­u­lar stunts or big stars. But, what it does share with those movies is that this film will move you. Un­for­tu­nately, this film will not have a se­quel bankrolled by a ma­jor stu­dio, nor will there be sim­i­lar qual­ity lo­cal movies like this with­out our sup­port.


Batu Caves, Se­lan­gor

Sangeeta Kr­ish­nasamy (right) in ‘Adi­wiraku’.

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