At its 55th Session held in Vienna in March 2012, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs passed a resolution which calls on states to address the specific needs of women in drug demand reduction programmes and strategies including – where the needs of women offenders are concerned – by implementing the Bangkok Rules.
As the circumstances of women’s lives are very different from those of men’s, their experience of substance abuse problems, and their treatment and rehabilitation needs differ. For example, as women’s substance abuse problems are often more stigmatised than those of men’s, they are less likely to be acknowledged and therefore less likely to be addressed at an early stage. Women also have more severe problems at treatment entry than men, and many have experienced trauma and are using substances to cope with their experiences. Women are also more likely to have mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, throughout rehabilitation, women and men differ in their physiological needs.
These gender-specific needs remain neglected in many criminal justice contexts as a result of stigmatisation, a lack of knowledge or insufficient political will. In this context, at its 55th Session held in Vienna in March 2012, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (the Commission) noted its concern that women with substance abuse problems are often deprived of effective treatment that takes into account their specific needs and circumstances (Resolution E/CN.7/2012/L.8/Rev.1). The Commission urged UN member states to incorporate female oriented programmes in their drug programmes and strategies. In reference to the specific needs of women substance abusers incarcerated in a prison setting, the Commission called for the implementation of the relevant provisions of the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules), adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2010.
The relevant Bangkok Rules’ provisions are laid out in section 6. They require states to screen women prisoners for the existence of drug dependency on entry (Rule 6d) and provide or facilitate specialised treatment programmes designed for women substance abusers taking into account prior incidents of violence against women, prior victimisation, and the special needs of women with children, pregnant women and women from diverse cultural backgrounds (Rule 15).
When published, the full text of the resolution will be available on the website of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/commissions/CND/09-resolutions.html