Teenage girls most at risk amid rising sexual violence in El Salvador – report | Global development

Rates of sexual violence in El Salvador rose by a third last year, with the majority of cases involving teenage girls.

More than 60% of the 4,304 cases of sexual violence recorded in 2018 involved 12- to 17-year-olds, according to a report published this week by the Organisation of Salvadoran Women for Peace (Ormusa).


About 20% of the 560 cases of missing women last year were also among this age group.

In 2017, the number of sexual violence cases was 3,290. Overall the country has witnessed a 13% increase in number of instances of violence against women, from 5,781 in 2017 to 6,673 last year.

According to the study, police received 18 reports of violence a day.

Silvia Ivette Juárez Barrios, from Ormusa, said much of the violence is related to gang culture. “The state’s ability to protect women in situations of gang violence is ineffective.

“This is despite a national security plan, including the implementation of extraordinary security measures and the budgetary commitment to address the phenomenon of gangs.”

She says, however, that these measures have barely begun to be applied effectively, and are up against “a deep-rooted macho culture”.

El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, and last year the UN called for action to tackle the crisis.

The attorney general responded by launching a national directorate to oversee cases affecting women, children, adolescents, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He said the directorate would create criteria, strategies and guidelines to improve investigations.

Since it was set up, the number of femicides – killings of a woman or girl by a man because of their gender – in the country has decreased by 19%, with 383 reported cases in the last year.

In 2017, the country also opened a new court to deal specifically with gender-based crimes such as femicide and revenge porn.

Silvia said: “The decrease in femicides may be due in part to the implementation of measures such as specific structures and monitoring of the problem. However, the increase of disappearances may also suggest a mutation of femicide rather than a reduction.”

She added that one of the main problems is impunity and the failure of police and authorities to secure convictions.

She said profound change is still needed, including “real and effective investment for the full exercise of all women’s human rights and the eradication of impunity and tolerance of violence in all its forms.”

The UN has described Latin America as the most violent region in the world for women outside of conflict. In 2017 a woman was killed approximately every 18 hours in El Salvador, data from the Institute of Legal Medicine showed.

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