Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and the criminal code’s definition of rape may apply to spousal rape. The law requires the FGR to prosecute rape cases whether or not the victim presses charges, and the law does not permit the victim to nullify the criminal charge. Generally, the penalty for rape is six to 10 years’ imprisonment, but the law provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years for raping certain classes of victims, including children and persons with disabilities.
Incidents of rape continued to be underreported for several reasons, including societal and cultural pressures on victims, fear of reprisal, ineffective and unsupportive responses by authorities toward victims, fear of publicity, and a perception among victims that cases were unlikely to be prosecuted. Laws against rape were not effectively enforced.
Rape and other sexual crimes against women were widespread. As of September 3, the FGR reported 1,793 cases of alleged sexual crimes resulting in 24 convictions. As of October 10, the ISDEMU reported 1,264 cases of alleged violence against women, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, femicide, rape, and psychological abuse. Authorities referred 105 cases to the FGR.
As of October the ISDEMU provided health and psychological assistance to 925 women who experienced sexual abuse, domestic violence, mistreatment, sexual harassment, labor harassment, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking in persons, or alien smuggling.
The law prohibits domestic violence and generally provides for sentences ranging from one to three years in prison, although some forms of domestic violence carry higher penalties. The law also permits restraining orders against offenders. Laws against domestic violence were not well enforced and cases were not effectively prosecuted. The law prohibits mediation in domestic violence disputes.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, was a widespread and serious problem. As of September the PNC reported 1,233 cases of alleged domestic violence. A large portion of the population considered domestic violence socially acceptable, and, as with rape, its incidence was underreported.
In October a man killed his estranged partner in front of their daughter. The victim had filed a restraining order a few days before her death. Authorities reportedly granted the restraining order but did not provide further protection to the victim. The Observatory on Violence against Women run by the Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace (ORMUSA) reported that, in August alone, 12 women were killed by their partners.
During the year the government engaged in a campaign to support the Secretariat of Social Inclusion (SIS) in its efforts to eliminate violence against women. ISDEMU coordinated with the judicial and executive branches and civil society groups to conduct public awareness campaigns against domestic violence and sexual abuse. The PDDH, the FGR, the Supreme Court, the Public Defender’s Office, and the PNC collaborated with NGOs and other organizations to combat violence against women through education, increased enforcement of the law, and programs for victims. SIS, through ISDEMU, defined policies, programs, and projects on domestic violence and continued to maintain one shared telephone hotline and two separate shelters for victims of domestic abuse and child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The government’s efforts to combat domestic violence were minimally effective.
On November 24, the Supreme Court of Justice and the Legislative Assembly signed an interinstitutional agreement to create specialized courts responsible for prosecuting violence against women and gender discrimination. The courts would be responsible for enforcing the 11 crimes defined in the Comprehensive Special Law for a Life Free of Violence, created in 2012.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There is no law prohibiting FGM/C. The practice was virtually nonexistent in the country.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides imprisonment from three to five years if the victim is an adult and from four to eight years if the victim is a minor. Courts may impose fines to a prison term in cases where the perpetrator is in a position of authority or trust over the victim. The law also mandates that employers take measures to avoid sexual harassment, violence against women, and other workplace harassment problems. The law requires employers to create and implement preventive programs to address violence against women, sexual abuse, and other psychosocial risks. The government, however, did not enforce sexual harassment laws effectively.
Since underreporting by victims of sexual harassment appeared to be widespread, it was difficult to estimate the extent of the problem. As of August 28, the ISDEMU reported 11 cases of alleged sexual harassment and referred five cases to the FGR.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children; to have the information and means to do so; and to have the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the maternal mortality rate for 2012 was 81 per 100,000 live births.
On May 13, the PDDH ruled that the Ministry of Health violated the sexual and reproductive rights of two HIV-positive teenagers whom ministry officials forcibly sterilized. According to the HIV unit of the PDDH, national hospitals routinely forcibly sterilized persons with HIV, regardless of their age. The PDDH concluded the patients did not have a full and well-informed understanding about medical procedures, family planning, or adequate services during their pregnancies. The PDDH ordered the creation of a special committee to define the parameters of “informed consent.”
Discrimination: The constitution grants women and men the same legal rights under family and property law, but women did not enjoy equal treatment. For example, women constituted only 39 percent of property owners. The law establishes sentences of one to three years in prison for public officials who deny a person’s civil rights based on gender and six months to two years for employers who discriminate against women in the workplace, but employees generally did not report such violations due to fear of employer reprisals (see section 7.d.).
Although pregnancy testing as a condition for employment is illegal, some businesses allegedly required female job applicants to present pregnancy test results, and some businesses illegally fired pregnant workers. As of September the Ministry of Labor received 68 complaints regarding the illegal firing of pregnant workers. It imposed no fines in that period.
Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender, women suffered from cultural, economic, and societal discrimination. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but the average wage paid to women for comparable work was 57 percent of compensation paid to men. Men often received priority in job placement and promotions, and women did not receive equal treatment in traditional male-dominated sectors, such as agriculture and business. Training was generally available for women only in low- and middle-wage occupations where women already held most positions, such as teaching, nursing, apparel assembly, home industry, and small business.