In many countries around the world, including Argentina, the number of women who aredeprived of their liberty has risen over time and has increased disproportionately in com parison to male prisoners. In Argentina, the number of female prisoners within the federal system increased 193%, while the male population rose 111% from 1990 to 2012.

Nonetheless, little research has been done to understand why there has been such a dramatic increase in women’s incarceration. At the same time, international and domestic laws governing prisons and prison policies and practices have traditionally been designed  for men. In 2010, however, the United Nations adopted the first international standards relating specifically to women prisoners – the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Female Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules).

The global “war on drugs” serves to explain, in part, the significant (and disproportionate) increase in rates of femaleimprisonment within Argentina’s SPF, as well as in other South American countries moregenerally. As part of the “war on drugs,” the United States pressured Latin American countries to increasingly prosecute and target drug crimes.

Argentina also adopted stricterdrug laws but, like other countries in South America, Argentina’s enforcement of anti-drug-trafficking laws has not successfully addressed the higher levels of organized drug trafficking. Rather, enforcement disproportionately targets lower-level crimes, in which women are usually the main participants.