Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2017, 09:48 GMT

El Salvador: Information on the availability of shelters and legal recourse for women who are victims of domestic violence, and on the likelihood of obtaining protection from such abuse through a judicial process

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 February 1997
Citation / Document Symbol SLV25693.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, El Salvador: Information on the availability of shelters and legal recourse for women who are victims of domestic violence, and on the likelihood of obtaining protection from such abuse through a judicial process, 1 February 1997, SLV25693.E, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
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 information that follows was provided in a 12 February 1997 telephone interview by a representative of the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS/PAHO) in San Salvador, which monitors women's issues in El Salvador.

There are currently two shelters for abused women in San Salvador. One is run by a non-governmental organization (NGO) of Salvadorean women called CONAMUS, and a more recently established one is run by the government's Instituto Salvadoreño del Desarrollo de la Mujer (ISTEMU). The latter shelter has a program known as programa de saneamiento familiar or program for sanitizing family relationships, that provides counselling. It also helps manage a hotline known as teléfono amigo or "friendly telephone," which provides immediate assistance to women throughout El Salvador, and coordinates actions with the police, courts and the Institute for Minors' Protection (Instituto de Proteccion al Menor). This institute has a number of centres that provide assistance to minors (under 18 years of age), regardless of their gender or marital status.

There are currently no shelters for abused women outside San Salvador.

Until December 1996 the only legal provision dealing specifically with cases of domestic violence was provided by the Family Code (Codigo de la Familia), which contained an article on the subject and enabled women to seek action through family tribunals (tribunales de familia). Other legislation could apply to certain cases, but this was the only provision specifically referring to spousal abuse.

In December 1996 the law on prevention of intrafamily violence (Ley de Prevencion de la Violencia Intrafamiliar) was approved and went into effect. The source stated that the most important point of this new law is that it classifies as a punishable crime, violence or abuse directed against a spouse, partner or family member.

The new law establishes procedures to be followed and measures to be taken in cases of intrafamily violence. It also provides for restraining orders and other protection measures (medidas cautelares). However, it is too soon to provide an accurate assessment of the effectiveness of its application and enforcement.

Women in El Salvador have various avenues of legal recourse at their disposal in cases of domestic violence.

The most immediate avenue of recourse is asking for direct intervention of the police (Policia Nacional Civil or PNC). The police can be reached through the above-mentioned hotline or contacted directly at its stations and telephone lines throughout El Salvador. The source pointed out that police do respond to domestic violence calls and do intervene. There is an ongoing training program for police personnel to promote awareness and enable them to deal with cases of domestic violence.

The police can detain a violent spouse or partner for a short period (up to 48 hours). The person will be kept in police custody longer if a legal process is opened against them. However, the person must be released if the victim does not press charges, and women often choose to withdraw charges, usually for fear of being alone or losing the household's financial support.

Some government and NGO programs provide legal and psychological counselling, or are aimed at improving women's self-esteem and enabling them to press charges or take other measures to end abusive relationships. However, NGO programs operate on very low budgets and thus have difficulty reaching their goals.

Other forms of recourse could provide effective but less immediate results. These include seeking intervention by family courts or by the attorney general (Fiscalia General de la Republica). The latter has an office dedicated to cases involving abused children and women (oficina para la mujer y el niño maltratado). The Institute of Legal Medicine (Instituto de Medicina Legal) can provide medical evaluations of persons reporting family or sexual abuse. The Institute for the Development of Woman (Instituto de Desarrollo de la Mujer) has just finished preparing a program to coordinate actions aimed at reducing the incidence of intrafamily violence, which now has to be approved by the government and implemented.

Please find attached two documents that provide recent information related to the subject and included for your reference. Country Reports 1996 has sections that discuss violence against women specifically and to judicial and legal processes in general, while the IPS article deals mostly with the question of legal recourse for women seeking financial support from absent fathers.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB 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.


Pan-American Health Organization (OPS/PAHO), San Salvador. 12 February 1997. Telephone interview with representative.


Inter Press Service (IPS). 13 August 1996. Juan Jose Dalton. "Errant Fathers Under Pressure to Care." (Global NewsBank)

United States Department of State. 30 January 1997. El Salvador Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996. Washington, DC: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. [Internet]  [Accessed 3 Feb. 1997]

Additional Sources Consulted

Central America NewsPak [Austin, Tex.]. Fortnightly.

Central America Report [Guatemala City]. Weekly.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. Weekly.

Latin American Regional Reports: Central America & the Caribbean [London].

Material from the Indexed Media Review (IMR) or country files containing articles and reports from diverse sources (primarily dailies and periodicals) from the Weekly Media Review.

Internet, DIRB, USINS and UNHCR databases.


             This list is not exhaustive. Country-specific books available in the Resource Centre are not included.

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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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