Police response to gender-based violence among women who use drugs: practices  and possibilities 

On-line webinar 

Date: 16th of December 2021 

10.00-13.30 (Kyiv time) 



According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one-in-three women experiences intimate  partner violence1. Women who use drugs are three-to-five times more likely to experience gender based violence than women in general2

Women who use drugs and/or are involved in drug trafficking face multiple, mainly gender-based,  stigmas and discrimination in society. They tend to have lower social and economic status within  the community of people who use drugs which means that they face multiple health risks and  barriers when trying to access services intended for survivors of gender-based violence.  

Such barriers may include punitive and discriminatory practices by police and health care  professionals; increased stigma associated with negative attitudes in society towards women who  use drugs; harm reduction services and drug treatment programmes that do not meet the needs of  women; lack of sexual and reproductive health services for people who use drugs; and limited access  to harm reduction programmes3, 4

Criminalisation of drug use often means that when faced with gender-based violence, women who  use drugs suffer structural abuse at the hands of police officers, health and social services, instead  of being given protection. Instead of providing security and support services police may charge a  woman with drug use and trafficking and also inform social services which may lead to loss of  parental rights. 

1 Violence against women. Strengthening the health response in times of crisis. Geneva; World Health Organization,  23 November 2018. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/feature-stories/detail/violence-against-women
2 El-Bassel N, Gilbert L, Witte S, Wu E, Chang M. Intimate Partner Violence and HIV Among Drug-Involved Women:  Contexts Linking These Two Epidemics—Challenges and Implications for Prevention and Treatment. Substance Use  & Misuse, Vol. 46, Issue 2-3, 2011, pp295-306. https://doi.org/10.3109/10826084.2011.523296
3 El-Bassel, Op.cit. 
4 Pinkham S, Malinowska-Sempruch K. Women, Harm Reduction, and HIV. New York; International Harm Reduction  Development Program, Open Society Institute, 2007.  

The aim of the on-line webinar event is to build capacity and knowledge about effective police  approaches in provision of help and protection to women using drugs in case of domestic and  intimate partner violence. During the webinar there will be an opportunity to learn about  internationally recommended approaches and best practices of police response focused on  ensuring security and referral to health, social care services and shelters for women5

The workshop is organized in the framework of the project “Access to comprehensive care for  women who use drugs in case of violence”, part of the regional project “Sustainability of Services  for Key Populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” which is lead by the Alliance for Public  Health, in a consortium with the 100% Life (All-Ukrainian Network of PLWH), the Central Asian HIV’  Association and the Eurasian Key Populations Health Network with the aid from the Global Fund to  Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in the C19RM framework. 

The webinar is organized with support of UNODC regional team. 

Language: English-Russian (with simultaneous translation) 

Duration: 3 hours 

Countries: Central, Eastern Europe and Central Asia  


  • Police officers and police station employees. 
  • Police academy professors and students 
  • Representatives of Ministry of interior responsible for police response on gender-based  violence. 

Meeting Agenda  

10.00 Introduction to the issue. Zhannat Kosmukhamedova, UNODC 

10.10 Presentation of the UNFPA Standard Operating Procedures6for police in response to  gender-based violence. Ms. Ionela Horga, East European Institute for Reproductive Health in  Romania 

10.25 A brief overview of challenges faced by women who use drugs in EECA countries,  Masha Plotko EHRA 

  1. 40 Community of women using drugs presenting specific cases to analyse the police  responce on violence. Alla Bessonova, Natalia Karagashova, Elena Bilokon from community  organisations. 
5 Help impossible to ignore. Guide and materials, 2021 https://harmreductioneurasia.org/wp content/uploads/2021/05/Help-Impossible-to-Ignore_ENG.pdf 
6 https://eeca.unfpa.org/en/publications/police-services-provision-standard-operating-procedures

11.00 Presentation of international experiense in provision of help to women using drugs in  case of gender based violance in European countries. Peter Muyshondt, Chief of police of the  local police area Rupel, Belgium 

Discussion and questions 

12.00 Presentation of Ukrainian algorithm of police actions to help to women using drugs in  case of gender based violance. Olena Dashutina, Head of the Department for Monitoring  Gender Equality and Combatting Domestic Violence Coordination at the Respecting Human  Rights Office of the National Police of Ukraine 

Discussion and questions 

12.50 Closing the webinar 

Facilitator: Ganna Dovbakh, EHRA