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The impact of drug policies on young people who use drugs in Kyrgyzstan
Ganesha, one of the national organisations closely supported by Youth RISE have completed a new research project on young people who use drugs in the cities of Osh and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. The purpose of the research project was to examine the impact of drug policies on young people who use drugs and to make recommendations for the improvement of drug policy for young people.
The research involved interviewing 30 young women who inject drugs in both Osk and 30 young women in Bishkek. The report showed that the majority of participants were unaware that harm reduction services exisited, as well as a significant number reporting that they had been refused access to services because they were using drugs. Another area which was especially concerning was around problems with the current drug laws, particularly Article 246 of the Criminal Code. This Article states ‘illegally manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, transporting or mailing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances in a ‘small quantity’ when committed without intention to sell and after an administrative fine has been imposed for the same offence, is punishable by ‘communal works’, a fine, the restriction of freedom for up to two years or imprisonment for up to two years’. Despite this legal provision, almost all the participants interviewed indicated that this policy didnt deter them from using drugs. The interviewees also indicated that bribery, beatings and harrassment was common. Furthermore, all of the particpants who were incarcerated continued their drug use in prison.
The research and report reveals the severe lack of attention given to young people who use drugs needs through a lack of services, including HIV prevention/testing services, rehabilitation programmes, shelters for pregnant teens and programmes for young people who are not injecting. Recommendations include raising awareness of the needs of young people who use drugs and the regular monitoring of article 246 of the Criminal Code. The report also identifies a clear need to carry out a systematic peer education and human rights training prgrammes for young people in Bishkek and Osh. Further research exploring ways for young people who use drugs to find a more convenient way for them to obtain information and harm reduction services would also be beneficial, and is something Ganesha will be looking into in the future.