Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2018, 09:02 GMT

El Salvador: Situation of homosexuals, including societal attitudes and availability of state protection and support services

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 11 July 2008
Citation / Document Symbol SLV102872.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, El Salvador: Situation of homosexuals, including societal attitudes and availability of state protection and support services, 11 July 2008, SLV102872.E, available at: [accessed 16 December 2018]
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.


Sexual relations between same-sex partners are legal in El Salvador (ILGA May 2008, 45; Sodomy Laws 24 Nov. 2007).

In April 2006, the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano, PDC) led by Rodolfo Parker proposed a constitutional amendment that would outlaw marriage between same-sex couples, as well as prohibit them from adopting children (AFP 24 Apr. 2006; NOTIMEX 25 Apr. 2006). The motion was supported by Salvadorian President Elías Antonio Saca and his ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, ARENA) (AFP 24 Apr. 2006; NOTIMEX 25 Apr. 2006). El Salvador's Catholic church, led by Archbishop Fernando Sáenz Lacalle, has also publicly endorsed the measure (El Diario de Hoy 25 Apr. 2006) and has lent support to a nationwide petition in favour of the amendment (NOTIMEX 25 June 2006; AFP 25 June 2006; see also AI 7 Aug. 2006). While the amendment was supported by most parties present in the legislature (AFP 25 June 2006), the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN), whose votes were necessary in order for the motion to pass, did not support the proposed constitutional amendment (ibid.; ibid. 12 June 2006). In May 2007, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the amendment was approved in April 2006 but not ratified (18 May 2007). More recent information as to whether or not the motion was eventually ratified could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In May 2007, media sources reported that the FMLN was the only party in the legislature to support the creation of a national day against discrimination based on sexual orientation (AFP 18 May 2007; El Diario de Hoy 20 May 2007).

State protection

According to Amnesty International (AI), "LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people in El Salvador regularly face attacks and intimidation" (AI 7 Aug. 2006). AI indicates that between 2001 and 2006, the offices of the Entre Amigos Association, a Salvadorian gay advocacy group, were raided seven times and that all raids were reported to authorities but none resulted in prosecution (ibid.). Despite the presence of police protection at the Entre Amigos office, at least one member has reported being threatened at gunpoint (ibid.; The Independent 22 Mar. 2007; The Guardian 22 Mar. 2007).

According to William Hernández, head of Entre Amigos, as many as 45 gay or bisexual Salvadorian men were killed between 1998 and 2006 because of their sexual orientation (ibid.; Gay City News 7 Dec. 2006). Hernández, who believes that transgender persons are particularly vulnerable (ibid.), told the New York-based Gay City News that it is very difficult to file a report with the police since complaints by homosexuals are often ignored (ibid.; The Independent 22 Mar. 2007). For instance, Hernández offered details of a situation where Entre Amigos helped three transgender youth who had reportedly been assaulted by three police officers take their case to the national prosecutor's office after their initial complaints to the police were rebuffed (ibid.; Gay City News 7 Dec. 2006).

Gay City News quotes a gay Amnesty International activist who works with LGBT people in Central America as saying that gangs pose a threat because as part of their initiation, some prospective members target gay people since they believe that the police will not investigate such murders (ibid.). Hernández repeated these allegations (Independent 22 Mar. 2007), although these allegations could not be corroborated by the Research Directorate.

Societal treatment

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation contravenes Salvadorian law, but is "widespread" in practice (US 11 Mar. 2008, Sec. 5). In 2003, a report published by the World Policy Institute, an independent New York-based think tank (World Policy Institute n.d.), indicated that "societal prejudice against sexual minorities runs very strong, endangering the safety of anyone known to be homosexual" (Reding 2003, 46). Country Reports 2007 also notes that "[t]here were reports of violence and discrimination by public and private actors ... against homosexual, lesbian, and transgender persons, including denial of legal registration for homosexual rights advocacy groups" (US 11 Mar. 2008, Sec. 5).

A May 2006 survey of 1,500 Salvadorians found that 80 percent of respondents were [translation] "against or strongly against" same-sex marriage, while 14 percent were in favour (AFP 12 June 2006; La Prensa Gráfica 12 June 2006).

In an article on the gay community in El Salvador, Gay City News quotes William Hernández, as saying that El Salvador's Catholic Archbishop "constantly refers to gay people as 'sick' and 'perverted'," a sentiment which, according to Hernández, is echoed by some other leading Salvadorian Catholic and Protestant organizations (7 Dec. 2006).

The Swiss daily Le Matin reports that in June 2006, a group of homosexuals took to the streets to protest anti-gay discrimination (26 June 2006). A similar march in San Salvador, involving 40 participants, was reported by La Prensa Gráfica on 15 May 2008; police noted that the protest occurred without incident.

Gay venues

In addition to its advocacy work, in which it publicizes abuse against members of the LGBT community and instances of inadequate official response, Entre Amigos offers sex education classes to members of the LGBT community as well as to other members of the public (AI 7 Aug. 2006).

According to the website, there are a number of gay venues in San Salvador, including four bars, four discotheques, two restaurants and three bathhouses (n.d.).

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 for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 18 May 2007. "Comunidad gay busca afianzar sus derechos en El Salvador." (Factiva)
_____. 25 June 2006. "Iglesia salvadoreña pide al Congreso ratificar prohibición de matrimonio gay." (Factiva)
_____. 12 June 2006. "Salvadoreños se oponen a matrimonio gay y a eschuchas telefónicas (encuesta)." (Factiva)
_____. 24 April 2006. "Saca apoya reforma constitucional para impedir matrimonios del mismo sexo." (Factiva)

Amnesty International (AI). 7 August 2006. "El Salvador: Fear for Safety/Death Threats." (AMR 29/004/2006) [Accessed 16 June 2008]

El Diario de Hoy [San Salvador]. 20 May 2007. José Zometa. "FMLN se queda solo con el día de gays." [Accessed 30 May 2008]
_____. 25 April 2006. Wilfredo Salamanca. "A prohibirse matrimonios homosexuales." [Accessed 11 June 2008]

Gay City News [New York]. 7 December 2006. Doug Ireland. "El Salvador Trans Attacks." [Accessed 16 June 2008] N.d. "Lugares gays El Salvador." [Accessed 30 May 2008]

The Guardian [London]. 22 March 2007. Elton John. "Shout the Bigots Down." [Accessed 29 May 2008]

The Independent [London]. 22 March 2007. "Voice for Homosexuals: A Hero in the Fight for Gay Rights." [Accessed 29 May 2008]

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). May 2008. Daniel Ottoson. "LGBTI Rights Global Overview." State-sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws Prohibiting Same-Sex Activity between Consenting Adults. [Accessed 10 July 2008]

Le Matin [Lausanne]. 26 June 2006. "El Salvador Gay Pride." (Factiva)

NOTIMEX (Agencia Mexicana de Noticias) [Mexico City]. 25 June 2006. "Apoya Iglesia salvadoreña campaña para evitar bodas homosexuales." (Factiva)
_____. 25 April 2006. "Repudian iniciativa de prohibir matrimonios gays en El Salvador." (Factiva)

La Prensa Gráfica [San Salvador]. 15 May 2008. Marcela Solís and Ernesto Pérez. "Homosexuales y lesbianas protestan por sus derechos." [Accessed 30 May 2008]
_____. 12 June 2006. Alexandra Bonilla. "8 de cada 10 rechazan matrimonios gay." [Accessed 30 May 2008]

Reding, Andrew. 2003. "El Salvador." Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas. (World Policy Institute, WPI) [Accessed 10 July 2008]

Sodomy Laws. 24 November 2007. "World Laws." [Accessed 24 June 2008]

United States (US). 11 March 2008. Department of State. "El Salvador." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007. [Accessed 30 May 2008]

World Policy Institute (WPI). N.d. "People." [Accessed 25 June 2008]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral source: Entre Amigos could not respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Diario Co Latino [San Salvador], European Country of Information Network (, Gay Guide,, Gay News Watch, Global Gayz, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), Pink News, World News Connection (WNC).

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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