Criminalization of the drug users for use and possession for personal use has been there for close to 4 decades at the federal level in India and for about 15 years in the state of Sikkim. Thus far this has done more harms than good as the probation and criminalization has resulted into overdose or unnatural deaths, health crisis, arrest, marginalization, social and economical exclusion and most importantly this has contributed significantly in breaking families apart and limiting access to any kind of support.
The Sikkim Drug Users’ Forum (SDUF) through this press statement wishes to draw the attention on these aspects of the drug laws that are unjust, unfair and deprives our community members of basic human rights enshrined in our constitution. While CoVID 19 has changed the definition of “marginalization”, what it hasn’t changed yet is the consequences of stigma and criminal sanctions very few “marginalized” community groups face. It is therefore not a matter of surprise that the lives of people who use drugs may be most difficult in terms of them being able to access even basic health services, legal and social support or even to be able to exist with dignity in their homes, communities or even prisons where they land up for possessing small amounts for personal use. It shouldn’t be hard to guess why they remain most at risk of HIV, viral hepatitis, TB and most recently CoVID 19.
The history of the drug probation and criminalization was never based on science and evidence, rather it was based on racial, prejudices and control over certain communities. According to the recent survey on drug use magnitude 2019 by Ministry of Social Justice & empowerment, Government of India data tells that alcohol use and abused is more than any other form banned drugs, I.e, will probation and criminalization for alcohol use will control the people from using and producing alcohol?
The baseless narratives of drugs being bad, evil and punitive crackdowns on drug users has made the lives of drug users further more challenging to function in society like a human being.
SDUF as a responsible civil society and community based organization works closely with drug users for ensuring that our community members have access to health services, social support, legal support and their rights and dignity is ensured at all times. We were born out of a very small and silent movement of our own to voice the concerns of our community to ensure we are not excluded only because we or our peers use drugs. We are law-abiding peace loving citizens and exist with a motto to advocated on the challenges faced by drugs users’ community in Sikkim with different department of Government system to ensure drug users have access to health and harm reduction services.
SDUF calls on head of the state for drug policy reform, which is based on human right principles, evidence, and scientific based to protect the lives of drug users and to ensure the needs of drug users community are met with equal dignity and respect.
Support. Don’t Punish.
Sikkim Drug Users’ Forum
(community led action for health and rights of people who use drugs)
Reg. No. E21/GTK/2798, Gangtok, East Sikkim