El Salvador is a country with a troubled history of violence. Recently published statistics show that El Salvador has the highest murder rate, and its capital San Salvador ranks as the 16th most dangerous city in the world.
In 2020, 131 women were murdered in El Salvador including 73 specifically targeted for being women (‘femicide’). Shockingly this represents a decline in the number of murdered women compared to the previous year. Between 2012 and 2019, 3,000 women were murdered in El Salvador yet the conviction rate against their killers was just under 9%.
In El Salvador, as is the case in other parts of the world, many murders of women occur against a backdrop of domestic violence and in a society where ’machismo’ prevails, which can make it difficult for women to report abuse or reach out for the support they need to be able to flee abusive relationships.
Unfortunately, the plight of women in El Salvador didn’t improve during the lockdown, as for many women staying home didn’t always mean that everyone stayed safe as home was not a safe place to be.
Christian Aid’s local partner in El Salvador, the Organisation of the Salvadorian Women for Peace (ORMUSA), saw a 6% increase in domestic violence cases in 2020.
As Rhina Graciela Juárez Lazo, who works for ORMUSA’s Legal Attention Centre explains, the lockdown introduced back in March 2020 prevented women reporting violence or seeking help.
“Lockdown was an influential factor in the increase in domestic violence of a verbal, sexual, economic and psychological nature and in the worst case, femicide,” Rhina says.
“This was due to women living longer with their aggressor. Added to that is the stress produced from being in the same place for a long time, which causes a hostile environment for the whole family. The lack of public transport during this time also restricted women from moving around and they feared being arrested for travelling to file complaints,” she adds.
What Rina describes was the reality faced by 37-year-old-mother of two Alejandra (not her real name) who lives in a suburb of San Salvador. The area where she lives is unsafe, there is no police station nearby, and as she explains, gang violence is a serious problem.
“We live in fear because of the gangs and the risk of children and adolescents becoming victims of violence. The gangs control entry into parts of the area and sell drugs,” Alejandra says.