Reading Women’s Voices: Gendered Experiences of Drug Use in India



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University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work


Substance use amongst women is a growing phenomenon in many parts of India. This small (approximately 1- 2% of 74 million substance users in the country) and hidden population is often stigmatized (United Nations Office of Drug Control [UNODC], Lawyers Collective, 2007). Female drug users are often considered to be ‘doubly deviant,’ deviating not only from social and moral norms as drug users but also from their traditional gendered roles as women (Fagan, 1994). Majority of research on women drug users in India is limited to reporting epidemiological trends. Very little is known about the women’s everyday experiences of drug use. For social workers, insight into this psycho- social-cultural context is critical especially to the development of relevant and sensitive treatment services and responses. With rising rates of HIV among this vulnerable population, it has become even more important to understand women’s risk behavior patterns, perceptions and the gendered context of drug use (UNODC, 2003). This pilot study with women drug users in a residential drug rehabilitation program in New Delhi attempts to address this gap in the literature. The present qualitative project examines how women understand, give meaning to, and narrate their experiences of drug use.



Perspectives on Social Work, Gayatri Moorthi, HIV, Perspectives on Social Work, Social work, HIV