LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)– Some local Lilongwe faith-based and women’s organizations this week expressed their concerns over punitive laws against substance and drug abusers. They argue that the approach is not addressing the challenge amongst the youth who form the larger grouping of of abusers in the country.
The organizations therefore, asked the country’s authorities to review the legal framework for drug and substance abuse. They suggest that these should provide psychological support for total transformation, rather than merely using punitive measures against them.
The advocating organizations include Women’s Coalition against Cancer-(WOCACA), United Religious Initiative (URI), and Lilongwe Cooperation Circle (CC), teamed up and made the request for Government to establish rehabilitation centers where drug and substance abusers access support.
Through the campaign dubbed “Support, Don’t Punish Them,” the organizations are advocate that ending drug abuse must be aligned with policies and laws that accommodate the users for them to change.
During the launch of the campaign on Tuesday, in the capital Lilongwe at Chinsapa UNICEF ground, WOCACA’s Executive Director, Maud Mwakasungula said the exercise coincided with the Global Day of Action, which is annually observed on June 26. On the day, thousands of people all over the world organize various events to commemorate the day.
Mwakasungula said time was ripe for the Malawi leave behind harmful politics, ideology and prejudices by prioritizing health and human rights over incarceration and futile efforts to achieve a “drug-free world.”
The “Support, Don’t Punish” is a global campaign that is calling for amendments to existing drug laws, decriminalization of low-level, non-violent drug offences, and for investments in effective and cost-effective harm-reduction responses for people who use drugs. The campaign was launched in 2013, and has grown annually.
“In the past, some governments commemorated this day by holding public executions or beatings of drug offenders. Yet, by the United Nations’ own admission, the ‘war on drugs’ has failed to reduce drug use and has led to serious negative consequences, such as overdose deaths, HIV, and hepatitis C infections among people who use drugs; prison over-crowding, severe human rights violations, and an exacerbation of stigma, marginalization, violence, and corruption,” said Mwakasungula.
Sharing the same sentiments, URI Coordinator Geoffrey Manase, said as a religious group, his organization supports the campaign in order to bring together God’s lost children through prayers and rehabilitation and support, not punishment.
Manase said the church has the critical role to play in supporting society’s segregated people for their wellbeing.
With financial support from AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), and International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), the campaign this year attracted other organizations including the Centre for Human Rights, Education Advice and Assistance, (CHREAA) and Youth Watch Society (YOWSO). All these advocate the “Support, Don’t Punish” campaign in raising public awareness on issues around drugs and harm-reduction, and initiating an open conversation on drug policy reforms.