By Kasia Malinowska for Project Syndicate. NEW YORK – When I was growing up in communist Poland, International Women’s Day was viewed as an opportunity to celebrate women’s contributions and accomplishments. But it was a hollow token. The following day, women went back to their lives of limited opportunity. No one-day holiday can do much to redress generations of discrimination.

The impact of the international drug-policy regime reflects this reality. In the drug supply chain, women are most commonly found at the bottom, often acting as “mules.” When a woman is caught, although she is often a non-violent first time offender, she faces a harsh mandatory minimum sentence.

To the traffickers, these women are expendable. Bail is rarely put up for them, or a lawyer hired, because they hold no value to the trafficking structures. And, left on their own, these women lack the knowledge and resources to navigate the criminal justice system. Nor are they likely to have the right kind of information to trade with authorities in exchange for a lighter sentence.

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