//Female drug users: the stories lesser heard

Female drug users: the stories lesser heard

Akoijam Sunita

IMPHAL, Apr 26: When a man gets addicted to drug he resort to stealing and when a woman starts using drug she starts by giving sexual favours for drugs and graduates to becoming a full time sex worker.

This is nearly a general truth and the two cases below clearly show that this general truth stands true for many of the women who are addicted to drug in Manipur. Though female drug users are numerically not as strong as male but there is enough number of them to cause concern among stakeholders to start addressing their issues at the earliest. Many of them are facing the fate of the male injecting drug users, who were once looked upon as the genesis of HIV/AIDS.

Grace, 28, (name changed) came from a very strict middle-class tribal family. As a curious teenager she started taking `beer just for fun` in parties. During that time she met her first boyfriend, who was a tablet user. Coming from a strict family the few hours she spent with her boyfriend used to give her a sense of freedom so she overlooked the fact that he was a drug user.

When her relationship went wrong, she started taking SP (Spasmo Proxyvon), a habit she emulated from her boyfriend. So even after the boyfriend left, the addiction stayed on.

Due to the addiction she disregarded her family principles. She started befriending boys in the locality who are into drugs. However in college she could not mingle with her friends due to her habit. Wanting to feel accepted, she decided to stop using drug and get back to mainstream life.

However her family and college friends came to know about her addiction and she was shunned by both. Not able to live with the stigma and discrimination, she left home and college. Depressed and dejected, a serious relapse followed and she started using SP along with RP, another powerful pain killer used at the time of labour pain.

After befriending some female drug users, Grace slowly-slowly started giving sexual favours to get her daily dose of drug. Having graduated from tablets to heroin, she is now working as a commercial sex worker and has been tested HIV positive apart from being infected by many sexually transmitted infections. Now she wants to go back to normal life but have lost all faith. Grace`s life is a true testimony that stigma and discrimination only serves to make the person go deeper into drugs and farther from the society.

Meena`s (26, name changed) tryst with drug began when her marriage to a man 10 years older to her failed and he deserted her for a lover. She got married at the age of 17 to a truck driver. It was an arranged marriage and the first 3 months passed blissfully. Soon after her husband`s behaviour changed and he started abusing her and spent lesser time with her. When she asked for an explanation he never responded.

One and half years after marriage, her husband started taking tablets. The communication gap between the two became wider and there was no joy of married life. One day he left home and never came back. Three months after he left, she had given up all hopes of living. A boy in the neighbourhood, who was a drug user, offered her SP tablets along with N10, another sedative drug. She took 30 tablets at one go to commit suicide. However she was saved.

Unfortunately she also experienced the `other effect` of the tablets. She contacted the same boy and started using tablets. After 5-6 months, when she started getting irregular monthly period as a side effect of the tablets, her mother in law took her for a health check up. There the doctor told her mother in law that she is using drugs. Without asking for any explanation or her side of the story, Meena was chased out of the house for taking SP tablets.

Not able to go back to her parental home, she left Manipur. Without enough money to survive and not getting a job anywhere, she started befriending some rich people. That time she had stopped using drug. She was arrested during a police drive and booked as a commercial sex worker arrested while indulging in immoral behaviour.

After she was released she started drug again and have a damn care attitude towards society. She is now back in Manipur and has become a full time CSW. So from a dutiful wife and daughter in law, Meena has now become unrecognizable to herself and has started injecting drugs too.

In both cases the stigma and discrimination from the family and society were responsible for these two women favouring drugs over mainstream life. Their repentance was evident but now it has slowly given way to a nonchalant and indifferent attitude towards the society.

Instead of alienating them, if the family and friends had given timely sympathetic help in the form of counseling and care and support, the relapse might never have happened. Drugs kill on a larger scale and this killing goes on silently. Until and unless people act responsibly towards drug users, they will continue to languish in complete dejection. Nothing is scarier than a person who has nothing to lose as he/she will not have second thoughts on anything.