The Indonesian Drug User Network, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, has launched a new publication, Women Speak Out: Understanding Women Who Inject Drugs in Indonesia. The launch coincides with intersecting campaigns for World AIDS Day (1 December, 2016) and UN Women’s #16daysofactivism campaign for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The report describes baseline results from the largest research study on female injecting drug users in Indonesia to date, which enrolled over 730 women from Greater Jakarta, West Java, and Banten. The report is for policy-makers, health service providers, and gender advocates concerned about problematic drug use, violence, and HIV/AIDS among women.
This study was the result of a collaborative, community-led process involving female peer researchers, local community-based organizations and experts across related programmes and sectors in Indonesia. It provides the first comprehensive snapshot of the experiences of women who inject drugs in Indonesia. Selected key findings include:
- 42% of women reported living with HIV, but less than half of them (44%) accessed life-saving antiretroviral treatment.
- Violence from trusted intimate partners such as husbands or boyfriends was widespread: 76% of women experienced some form of past-year verbal, physical and sexual violence from current or former husbands or boyfriends. 50% experienced physical abuse, more than 4 times as high as the rate of physical abuse experienced by a sample of women from the general population. 6% of the women needed to see a doctor or go to the emergency room in the past year after experiencing severe physical violence from an intimate partner.
- Encounters with the police and experiences of extortion were frequent: 87% of women who had previously been arrested were asked for bribes by the police in exchange for a lesser charge, referrals to drug dependence treatment, or to have their charges dropped.
- Police violence: 60% of women who had come into contact with law enforcement were verbally abused, 27% physically abused (slapped, punched, kicked or beat up) and 5% sexually abused by the police.
- Childhood sexual abuse and mental health needs were common: 39% of women experienced sexual abuse in their childhood, which has been linked to problematic drug use and mental health needs later in life. 65% of women also had symptoms of depression.
- Social marginalization and isolation: 47% of the women were unemployed, but the majority (59%) had children and other dependents that they were responsible to provide for. 57% had monthly incomes below the Indonesian national monthly average of Rp 3.8 million (USD $280), and 29% exchanged sex for extra money, drugs or to meet basic needs.
- Women who inject drugs in the study also experienced high rates of overdose, unsafe abortion, and unmet reproductive health and contraception needs.
- The study concluded that female injecting drug users have largely been ignored by current HIV and violence prevention efforts. This has contributed to women’s inadequate access to health and support services, and their poor health and well-being. There is an urgent need to implement and scale up evidence-based, targeted responses and policies to address the needs of these highly vulnerable and marginalized women.
The report recommends a set of urgent actions for policy-makers and service providers to address the situation facing drug-using women. These include establishing monitoring and reporting systems for police-related and intimate partner violence, providing accessible legal aid to women who have encounters with the law, enhancing existing HIV prevention and treatment services to improve accessibility by drug-using women, and establishing integrated health and support services that champion peer-driven outreach via women with a drug use background.
Download the report here: