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. The Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women (ISDEMU) provided health and psychological assistance to women who experienced sexual abuse, domestic violence, mistreatment, sexual harassment, labor harassment, trafficking in persons, including commercial sexual exploitation, 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. A large portion of the population considered domestic violence socially acceptable, and, as with rape, its incidence was underreported. As of November 24, the Ministry of Health reported that 4,686 women were victims of violence. As of October 24, the PNC received 134 cases that allege violence against women. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) reported 183 femicides in 2014.
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, FGR, Supreme Court, Public Defender’s Office, and PNC collaborated with NGOs and other organizations to combat violence against women through education, increased enforcement of the law, and programs for victims. The Secretariat of Social Inclusion (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 12, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, in partnership with ISDEMU and the Department of Census Statistics, implemented the National Data and Statistics System for Information on Violence against Women. Using this system the three agencies aimed to collect and analyze data to better understand the root causes of violence against women as well as evaluate the impact of policies aimed at eliminating violence against women.
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 in addition 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.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Access to reproductive health services outside of San Salvador, however, was limited.
Civil society advocates expressed concern that 17 women convicted of homicide for the deaths of their infants were wrongly incarcerated. Amnesty International and the UN Development Program claimed the women had miscarriages, while the Legal Medicine Institute argued that the women committed infanticide. On January 21, the Legislative Assembly approved a pardon for one of the 17 women, Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana. Vasquez Aldana was sentenced in 2007 to 30 years of prison on charges of homicide in the death of her child. The vote was based on a report presented by the Supreme Court of Justice indicating that there was insufficient evidence to prove Vasquez Aldana was guilty. The Legislative Assembly was reviewing the remaining 16 cases.
On March 11, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that the Ministry of Health violated the sexual and reproductive rights of two HIV-positive teenagers whom ministry officials forcibly sterilized. The Constitutional Chamber ruled that the teenage patients did not have a full and well-informed understanding about medical procedures, family planning, or adequate services during their pregnancies.
Discrimination: The constitution grants women and men the same legal rights under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws, but women did not enjoy equal treatment. 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.
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 according to the 2014 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, the average wage paid to women for comparable work was 55 percent of compensation paid to men. Men often received priority in job placement and promotions, and women did not receive equal treatment in traditionally 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.