A COALITION of Australian organisations have come together to condemn the ongoing violence against suspected drug users and dealers in the Phillippines.
Under direct instruction from Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, more than 3,700 people who were suspected of using and/or selling drugs have been murdered in the Philippines since May this year.
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), Scarlet Alliance, National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) and Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AVIL) have come together to call for an end to the violence.
“The mass slaughter currently being carried out in the Philippines is an appalling crime against humanity.” said Dr Angella Duvnjak, CEO of AIVL.
“History tells us that killing people who use or deal drugs has never effectively solved any of the problems the community faces.”
Australia’s HIV response has proven how the direct involvement of affected communities in addressing public health concerns produces the best outcomes according to Aaron Cogle, executive director, NAPWHA.
“One of the unique strengths of our highly successful national HIV response is the Partnership Model, which involves working together with key populations- including people who use drugs.” he said.
“Punitive measures stigmatise and marginalise people and have the opposite effect.”
“The experience of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) communities demonstrates the progress that we as a society can make in addressing the stigma of criminalisation,” said Heath Paynter, Acting CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, “Let’s not forget that it’s been less than 20 years since the last Australian state decriminalised homosexuality- and look how far we’ve come in terms of the acceptance and treatment of LGBTIQ communities.”
Jules Kim, CEO of the Scarlet Alliance, Australia’s national sex workers association, said: “Regardless of a person’s circumstances, everybody deserves to have their basic human rights respected.”
“We know that excessive police enforcement and dehumanising policies, particularly against those who are most marginalised, have negative consequences not only for individuals, but also for the broader public and are a waste of money, community resources, and human life,” she said.
“These crimes committed by the Filipino President against people who use drugs have an impact on everybody. Denying any part of our community access to due process and basic human, social, legal and political rights is a violation against us all.
“Whether we are a sex worker or someone who uses drugs, and regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, we are entitled to our rights.”
“It is timely for all of us to reflect on our own treatment of people who use drugs.” Dr Duvnjak concluded. “While Australia’s past achievements have been significant, critically examining the criminalisation of drugs, as well as being more open to new harm reduction initiatives, such as pill testing and prescription heroin, are urgently needed steps to continue our progress in meeting the challenges presented by illicit drugs in the community.”
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. We hope the broader Australian community stands with us.”