Drug war is also a war on women
As the war on drugs rages on, it is easy to overlook the long-term impacts of the punitive drug approach on the country’s female incarceration rate.
As we marked National Women’s Day last March 8, the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP-IHR) with the United Nations
Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) placed a spotlight on the disproportionate effect of the drug war to female incarceration and its gendered consequences.
In a series of webinars conducted by UP-IHR, it was revealed that in the Correctional Institution for Women that struggles with a 125-percent congestion rate, 63 percent (out of 3,364) of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) were placed behind bars for drug offenses. Other offenses paled in comparison, as they only ranged no higher than 19 percent of the total percentage.
This disparate figure highlights the government’s focus on criminalizing, as opposed to rehabilitating, even nonviolent drug offenders. The government’s approach profoundly impacts women, as there have been notable failures in providing for gender-differentiated needs for women PDLs, particularly mothers with infants and young children. Even after release, former women PDLs face both the stigma of incarceration and the prevailing bias and discrimination against girls and women. This intersectionality compounds the situation of women PDLs who may not be able to fully reintegrate due to their prior status.
As of 2019, over 85-90 percent of those detained nationally are inside due to drug-related offenses, and this figure will rise further as the government doggedly continues with its punitive approach. Unless people start realizing and voicing calls to shift the punitive approach to treatment and rehabilitation, this war, in the words of Deborah Sibila and Andrea Yatsco, may also be described as a “war on women.”
Raymond Marvic C. Baguilat, senior lecturer/senior legal associate, UP College of Law
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