WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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8 Mar 2022 | News

Little to Celebrate: 5 Facts about Women and Violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

Women and girls in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,known as the Northern Triangle of Central America, confront extreme levels of gender-based violence, which is worsened by corruption, weak institutions, and a culture of impunity toward perpetrators. For marginalized, indigenous and Afro-descendent women and for the many at the forefront of social movements, accessing protection and justice is even more challenging due to the lack of political will and many capacity gaps within the criminal justice systems.

Women make up more than half the population of the Northern Triangle and are the main breadwinners in the vast majority of single-headed households. However, gender-based violence and impunity force many to flee their homes to other cities and towns or leave their countries in an attempt to reach other countries, including the United States. 

Strengthening justice systems to reduce impunity and developing comprehensive mechanisms and policies to tackle gender-based violence, working alongside civil society organizations, should be a top priority for these governments.

Here are five facts that demonstrate why authorities must do more to ensure women and girls can enjoy a life free from violence and abuse:

  1. Women in the region face some of the highest homicide rates in the world. At 13.8 per 100,000, El Salvador’s rate was the highest in the region in 2017, although many females’ killings were not appropriately classified as femicide. Guatemala does appropriately classify the majority of killings of women, but Honduras does so the least of the three countries.

Sources: World Bank, ORMUSA, ICCPG.

2. Thousands of women report violence in their homes every year – more than 57,000 in 2020 in Guatemala alone. The true figure is likely significantly higher, as officials do not always document their cases, and many women are too afraid to speak up amidst threats to their lives and few places to seek shelter.

Number of Reports of Domestic and Intrafamilial Violence and Violence against Women 

  El Salvador Guatemala Honduras
2018   55,965 6,286
2019 2,621* 59,605 10,553
2020 1,407 57,292  
2021 1,310    

Sources: ICCPG Mirador Judicial for Guatemala, ORMUSA for El Salvador, IUDPAS for Honduras.

  1. Sexual assault and rape are also common, and underreported, across the region. The vast majority of cases are never investigated.

Number of Reports for Rape and Other Sexual Violence 

  El Salvador  Guatemala  Honduras 
2017  4253  14,382  2960 
2018    14,588  2971 
2019    14,995  2781 
2020  2665    2146 
2021  3284     

Source: WOLA Central America Monitor and ORMUSA for El Salvador (2020 and 2021). 

  1. Less than 20 percent of police in each country are women. This is problematic because it deprives abuse survivors of a place where they can feel safe to report the crimes they suffer.

Percentage of Females in Police Force

  El Salvador Guatemala Honduras
2017 15.4 14.7 18.6
2018   14.9 18.9
2019   15.6 20
2020   15.7 19.1

Source: Central America Monitor. 

  1. In all three countries, women constitute a large share of justice sector workers. In Honduras, for example, the majority of judges and public defenders are women. In El Salvador, the majority of public defenders and prosecutors are women. But, serious barriers to obtaining justice, Including limited investigations, case overload and corruption, mean impunity prevails in the majority of cases of violence against women.

Percentage of Female Judges 

  El Salvador Guatemala Honduras


42.5 48
2015 41.5 53
2016 42.2 53
2017 40.5 53

Source: WOLA Central America Monitor.

 Percentage of Female Public Defenders

  El Salvador Guatemala Honduras



46.2 66
2015 46.9 66
2016 48.2 66
2017 47.2 68

Source: WOLA Central America Monitor.

Most of the information presented above is part of WOLA’s Central America Monitor. Visit https://www.wola.org/central-america-monitor/ to learn more about human rights, gender, violence, corruption and other issues affecting the region.