Since its inception in the early 1970’s, the global war on drugs has aimed to combat drug trafficking with a view towards diminishing the production and consumption of psychoactive drugs. In recent years, however, the anti-drug initiative has come under much critical scrutiny culminating in the damning report published by the Global Commission on Drug Policy in 2011. The report, along with a growing number of research studies,highlights the shortcomings of the war on drugs with some scholars going as far as to suggest that global drug control has contributed to an “international risk environment”.
As some experts are considering the possibility of decriminalization of psychoactive drugs, the critical spotlight has recently been shifting from the demonization of drug users to the pervasive violation of human rights as a consequence of drug trafficking. Svante E. Cornell, for example, points out that drug trafficking is closely tied to other criminal practices such as terrorism and human smuggling. To enable the smuggling of drugs across countries and continents, drug dealers tend tocreate complex human smuggling networksand make use of numerous “drug mules” in order to minimize the risk of getting caught themselves.While drug mules typically smuggle the drugs by strapping the merchandise to their bodies or hiding it in their clothes, many of them assume serious health hazards by inserting drugs into body cavities and thus using their bodies as containers. Forciblycoerced to participate in drug smuggling, these individuals often risk their lives while receiving little or no compensation for their dangerous occupation.
For this reason, certain individuals involved in global drug trade should be considered as victims rather than perpetrators. Indeed, a large percentage of drug mules are women suffering from daily abuse at the hands of drug cartels. Yet, as the steadily growing female prison population indicates, many of these women are incarcerated and punished by the legal system as a consequence of the global war on drugs. Marylee Reynolds argues that the marginalization of poor women of color in developing nations has led to their involvement in criminalized behaviour and, consequently, to the increasingglobal incarceration of women. The failure of our current justice system to adequately assess the role played by drug mules in drug trafficking is yet another shortcoming of the global war on drugs that demands urgent attention on the part of international community.
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