Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 11:06 GMT

El Salvador: Domestic violence, including recourse, remedies and services for victims (replaces SLV40289.E of 4 October 2002 and SLV40040.E of 26 September 2002)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 5 April 2004
Citation / Document Symbol SLV42339.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, El Salvador: Domestic violence, including recourse, remedies and services for victims (replaces SLV40289.E of 4 October 2002 and SLV40040.E of 26 September 2002), 5 April 2004, SLV42339.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c5c2a.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women (Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo de la Mujer, ISDEMU) received more than 3,500 reports of domestic violence against women in the first 11 months of 2003 (Diario CoLatino 26 Nov. 2003a). Additionally, at least 25 women were killed by their husbands during the same period, according to the Forensic Medicine Institute (Instituto de Medicina Legal) (ibid.). However, the Office of the Public Prosecutor (Fiscalía) reportedly indicated that the actual number of spousal killings could be much higher, given that forensic doctors frequently do not specify the perpetrator's identity (ibid.).

While little information on the incidence of domestic violence in areas outside of San Salvador could be found among the sources consulted, a 9 May 2003 report by the newspaper Diario de Occidente claimed that up to 40 domestic violence victims, predominantly from rural areas, are treated each month in hospital in the city of Santa Ana. The ISDEMU regional office in Santa Ana, responsible for the departments of Santa Ana, Sonsonate and Ahuachapán, received 1,366 domestic violence complaints in 2002 and another 356 complaints in the first four months of 2003 (Diario de Occidente 9 May 2003).

On 25 November 2003, the Legislative Assembly approved a number of amendments to the Family Code, Penal Code and Penal Procedures Code to afford greater protection to women and children from sexual exploitation as well as to ensure the timely delivery of appropriate support services (Diario CoLatino 26 Nov. 2003b). The following month, in December 2003, the Office of the Attorney General (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) signed a cooperation agreement with the San Salvador-based Women's Association for Dignity and Life (Asociación de Mujeres por la Dignidad y la Vida, Las Dignas) (ibid. 18 Dec. 2003). According to this agreement, the group would provide technical assistance to personnel dealing with domestic violence victims in the Office of the Attorney General (ibid.). The agreement also included a commitment to cooperate in the promotion of responsible parenthood (ibid.). No information on the impact of the cooperation agreement could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In February 2004, following a five-day visit to El Salvador, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Yakin Ertürk stated that women face various difficulties in gaining access to the legal system, and that impunity for perpetrators of domestic violence remains a serious problem (El Diario de Hoy 15 Feb. 2004). She added that training must be provided to judges and other judicial personnel to ensure that existing legislation is adequately enforced (ibid.). Ertürk's observations corroborate the claim by Diario CoLatino that only one per cent of domestic violence complaints registered between 1980 and 2000 resulted in the conviction and sentencing of the perpetrator (26 Nov. 2003a). More recent information on sentencing statistics could not be found among the sources consulted.

The following information on domestic violence-related issues was provided on 19 January 2004 by the Norma Virginia Guírola de Herrera Women's Studies Centre (Centro de Estudios de la Mujer Norma Virginia Guírola de Herrera, CEMUJER), a San Salvador-based non-governmental organization with 13 years experience in providing assistance to domestic violence victims and coordinating the efforts of various state and non-state agencies to combat such violence.

Despite some improvements in 2003 in the area of domestic violence, progress has been very slow given the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore, there has been a lack of education campaigns and other initiatives to raise awareness of domestic violence issues among the country's population.

While victims have access to a number of support services, they are generally delivered by non-governmental organizations, some of which lack experience in this area. Resources available to victims include a telephone help line and a shelter managed by the ISDEMU. There are no other shelters or women's centres (casas de acogidas) in the country.

Although the country's domestic violence legislation is fairly adequate (bastante ... adecuada) and, with some exceptions, in accordance with international law, the legal system fails to protect victims and there is a high degree of impunity. For example, the Office of the Public Prosecutor's investigative capacity is limited by serious technical difficulties. While the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil, PNC) also faces shortcomings in its ability to deal with domestic violence cases, it is making an effort to improve its performance. The CEMUJER is currently delivering sensitivity training to police officers, and the PNC has provided immediate protection to victims when requested to do so by CEMUJER.

In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the Director of National Policy Implementation at the ISDEMU provided the following information (El Salvador 27 Sept. 2002).

There have been successes in recent years regarding the prosecution of domestic violence cases due to reforms made to the Penal Code. Under these reforms, since domestic violence has been classified as a criminal offense, it is now possible to obtain corrective measures (sanctions), and not just preventative ones. The political will to deal with the problem of violence against women, children and senior citizens is evidenced by the legal advances made in El Salvador, which include the creation of new norms, the ratification of international treaties, and the implementation of legislative reforms. However, many efforts to effectively enforce laws addressing violence against women have been adversely affected by stereotypical attitudes adopted by the judges. Therefore, while many advances have been made, efforts are still required to educate those who deal with victims as well as to make women aware of their rights and teach them how to effectively use the justice and administrative systems to seek recourse.

According to a July 2002 report by the Latin America and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM),

The process guarantees for the persons that denounce [the right to] request precautionary preventive or protection measures. There is place for an appeal recourse before the Family Chamber. The probing demand is bigger only when one requests the exclusion from the family home or household of the aggressor. The processes last 30 days. Good results have been obtained in some cases; however, the waiving of the victim's rights still persists.

In [cases of] offenses of sexual violence, the duration of the processes is between six months and one year. The results are still not satisfactory, since in most cases the aggressor is not arrested.

[R]ape victims who interrupt [a] pregnancy resulting from sexual abuse are penalized. The exceptions that existed before the approval of the new Penal Code have been re-criminalized: abortion by rape, therapeutic abortion and eugenic abortion.

The ratification of the Interamerican Convention to Prevent, Sanction and Eradicate Violence Against Women, the enactment of the Law against Intrafamily Violence and the typification of intrafamily violence as an offense has contributed to the fact that the traditional concept according to which family violence is a matter of the private environment is being overcome, although ... domestic disputes and ... violence in the family relationships are [still] being assumed as natural. The victims believe that they will not be listened to, therefore it is necessary to [reinforce efforts] to transform these schemes (77).

Please note that the information contained in the above-cited July 2002 CLADEM document on national legislation, enforcement of laws, public policies and services is based primarily on a Spanish-language document published by the CLADEM in 2000. The entire section on El Salvador of the July 2002 document is attached to this Response.

According to the section on El Salvador of its report entitled Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting their Reproductive Lives, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) stated that there were two legal instruments addressing domestic violence: article 200 of the Penal Code which defines domestic violence (reformed in 1998) and the Law Against Violence within the Family (1996) (CRLP Jan. 2001, 43). Article 200 outlines the penalties for individuals who violate restraining orders or other protection measures issued by a public official applying the Law Against Violence within the Family (ibid., 43-44). With the reforms to the Penal Code, responsibility for hearing domestic violence cases has shifted from the Office of the Public Prosecutor to the justices of the peace, family courts, and to the Office of the Attorney General (ibid., 44). However, in cases where the perpetrator of domestic violence does not comply with judgements handed down by the family courts or the justices of the peace, the case is returned to the Office of the Public Prosecutor, which "is required to enforce the Penal Code" (ibid.).

In a 25 September 2002 telephone interview, a legal adviser at the Office of the Human Rights Defence Attorney (Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, PDDH) stated that a new protection measure has been in effect since late July 2002 (El Salvador 25 Sept. 2002). This special measure allows a victim of domestic violence or any person aware of a case of domestic violence to call the police to impose a temporary eight-hour restraining order on the alleged perpetrator (ibid.). When a call is made, police officers go immediately to the household in question to assess the situation (ibid.). In cases where the aggressor violates the restraining order, he or she can be arrested, charged or detained (ibid.). The legal adviser could not provide additional information.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. January 2001. "El Salvador." Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting their Reproductive Lives. Latin America and the Caribbean Progress Report 2000. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

Centro de Estudios de la Mujer Norma Virginia Guírola de Herrera (CEMUJER), San Salvador. 19 January 2004. Correspondence received by the Research Directorate.

Diario CoLatino [San Salvador]. 18 December 2003. Violeta Muñoz. "Procuraduría General y Las Dignas firman convenio de cooperación." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2004]

_____. 26 November 2003a. "Alarmantes cifras sobre violencia contra mujeres." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2004]

_____. 26 November 2003b. Iván Escobar. "Asamblea aprueba reformas en beneficio de la niñez y la mujer." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2004]

El Diario de Hoy [San Salvador]. 15 February 2004. Mirella Cáceres. "'La violencia contra la mujer es impune'." [Accessed 29 Mar. 2004]

Diario de Occidente [Santa Ana]. 9 May 2003. Claudia Zaldaña. "Solas ante el drama de la violencia con el compañero." [Accessed 20 Jan. 2004]

El Salvador. 27 September 2002. Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo de la Mujer (ISDEMU). Correspondence sent by the Director of National Policy Implementation.

_____. 25 September 2002. Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (PDDH). Telephone interview with a legal adviser.

Latin America and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM). July 2002. "El Salvador." Report for the United Nations' Special Reporter on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Dr. Rhadika Coomaraswamy, in the Context of the Preparation of her Final Report to be Presented in the 59th Session Before the Human Rights Commission. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

Attachment

Latin America and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM), July 2002. "El Salvador." Report for the United Nations' Special Reporter on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Dr. Rhadika Coomaraswamy, in the Context of the Preparation of her Final Report to be Presented in the 59th Session Before the Human Rights Commission. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002], pp. 75-78.

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Unsuccessful attempts to contact the Asociación de Mujeres por la Dignidad y la Vida; Coordinadora Nacional de la Mujer Salvadoreña; Instituto de Investigación, Capacitación y Desarrollo de la Mujer; Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo de la Mujer; Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas para la Paz; and Red de Acción contra la Violencia de Género en El Salvador

Publications: Central America Report [Guatemala City], 2003; Latinamerica Press [Lima], 2003; Latin American Regional Reports: Central America & the Caribbean [London], 2003.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, CEDAW, CIMAC, El Diario de Hoy [San Salvador], Human Rights Watch, ISIS Internacional, La Nación [San José], La Prensa [Tegucigalpa], Organization of American States (OAS), Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), United Nations Development Fund for Women, WomenWatch.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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