10 June 2020

Barriers to Harm Reduction for Women Who Use Drugs

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This briefing documents the experiences of women who use drugs with access to harm reduction and health services in Ethekweni, Durban, South Africa.

The South African Network of People who Use Drugs (SANPUD) and Harm Reduction International convened series of focus group discussions with women who use drugs. Participants were invited to share their experiences of harm reduction services and factors which block access to services. The focus group discussions highlighted a population who are routinely oppressed, criminalised and dehumanised. Despite a clear desire to achieve good health and practice harm reduction, women reported police pose a major barrier to accessing services, and are part of a law enforcement ecosystem that sees them as undeserving of basic respect and dignity. This briefing shows how law enforcement officers prevent women from accessing justice and harm reduction services, and the harm enacted upon women through physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

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