IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Autor)
The information that follows adds to that
provided by Country Reports 1998 (see subsections on Women
and Children), and SLV25693.E of 13 February 1997, SLV18257.E of 23
September 1994 and SLV14149 of 14 June 1993. Although their main
focus is on women, these Responses deal with the subjects of sexual
and intrafamily violence, including protection, services and
response from the authorities in relation to it.
The Salvadorean magazine Proceso
of the Central American University (UCA) reported on 2 September
1998a the following:
Articles 167, 168, 169 and 173 of the Penal Code protect minors under 18 years of age from diverse sexual acts, from the corruption of minors, from illicit persuasion, promotion and favoring of prostitution. This is an advantage, taking into account that there are countries in which such legislation for the protection of minors does not exist. Nevertheless, the life of a child is invaluable and a prison term of 2-8 years (which is what this legislation stipulates for those who sexually assault minors) cannot undo the damage which sexual abuse presupposes.
On 2 December 1998a, under the heading "The
Current State of Violence in the Family" Proceso
As the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman's Office for Human Rights (PDDH, for its initials in Spanish) took a stand against violence in the family and in favor of eradicating it, the national press explained that, between 1997 and 1998 some 26 women died as a result of such violence. The Institute of Legal Medicine revealed that, between January and June of 1998 some 800 cases of violence in the family were reported; the Attorney General's Office received 10-12 denunciations on a daily basis while the Institute for the Development of Women (ISDEMU, for its initials in Spanish) received some 1,060 cases in only three months. Nevertheless, this is not the most alarming fact. The same day news was published which explained that in some rural areas (small towns and isolated rural communities far from departmental capitals) that attention for these kinds of violence is non-existent. In these places there are no offices where complaints can be registered and the National Civilian Police, the Family Courts of the PDDH show no intention to overcome this problem.
To prevent and sanction violence against women and children lies in the hands of some governmental and non-governmental institutions. There is, for example, the Program of Schools for Parents and Centers for Psychological Assistance. As a spokesperson for the Supreme Court explained, "at the present time our efforts are oriented towards promoting education and training of judges and other functionaries of the justice system...in the problem of violence in the family to take up, in a more effective way, the responsibility for administering a just and more even-handed justice".
So then, the topic of violence in the home is, up to a certain point, a new one for legislation and punishment. The Salvadoran Penal Code has taken it up only since the month of April of 1998.
The section "News Briefs" of the same
Proceso issue cites a report from the daily La Prensa
Gráfica stating the following:
In the context of the "International Day for Non-Violence Against Women", celebrated on November 25, the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women (ISDEMU, for its initials in Spanish) declared that, between 1995 and 1997 the effects of violence in the family were tripled. In accordance with this statement, beatings and psychological harm increased, although the figures for deaths as a result of aggressions diminished. The Director of the Program for the Healing of Family Relations (PSRF, for its initials in Spanish), Mr. Enrique Valdez, stated that from the date in March of 1995 when the program was inaugurated until August of this year, 36,884 victims of family violence in critical condition had been attended; three of every four of these victims are women. Women usually present a complaint for physical and psychological violence while for minors the aggressions are of the sexual kind. There are also cases of men who are victims of physical violence. It is a known fact that the greatest number of aggressors live in San Salvador and Soyapango, The PSRF, coordinated by the ISDEMU, works in a multi-disciplinary and institutional system which includes 12 governmental organisms. "Many believe that these problems should be resolved using legal means, but experience has demonstrated that it is through social means [that these problems should be addressed]", stated Mr. Valdez (2 Dec. 1998b).
The Human Rights Institute of the Central
American University in San Salvador conducted in 1998 an extensive
study of the "judicial means of protection for children and youth
in El Salvador," with the assistance of Swedish and Danish
organizations (Proceso 2 Sept. 1998b; ibid. 17 Sept.
1998). Although the summary of findings published in
Proceso is extensive and in Spanish, some of the main
findings are as follows.
Two of the greatest limitations facing the
study on the effectiveness of judicial mechanisms for protecting
youth and children are that Salvdorean society makes limited use of
the existing mechanisms for the defense of children's' rights, and
that the judicial system does not have an information system that
allows a precise tracking or monitoring of the cases it
One of the main limitations to effective
action regarding child abuse is the lack of a "culture of reporting
cases" (no hay una práctica social de denuncia de
casos), adding that this problem is particularly acute in
cases of incest, where the aggressor and the victim belong to the
same family. Reporting is also limited due to a fear of reprisals
and the impunity that traditionally has been enjoyed by certain
sectors of society (ciertos sectores sociales).
The study found many strengths and positive
developments in the current system, as regards child abuse. The
system includes the family tribunals, the minors tribunals, the
"measures enforcement and peace judges" (jueces de
ejecución de medidas y de paz), the National Civilian
Police (PNC), the Public Attorney's Office (Fiscalía General
de la República), the National Ombudsman's Office
(Procuradoría General de la República), the
Salvadorean Institute for the Protection of Minors (Instituto
Salvadoreño de Protección al Menor), the National
Family Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional de la Familia), The
Ombudsman for the Defense of Human Rights (Procuradoría para
la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, PDDH), the ministries of
Health, Education, Labour and Justice, and non-government
institutions that work with children in coordination with the
national Network for Childhood and Adolescence (Red para la
Infancia y la Adolescencia).
The legislation in place is viewed by the
study as being in accordance with international instruments.
Additional strengths of the legislation are its recognition of both
rights and duties of children; a variety of means to prevent and
resolve conflicts; more practical and humane proceedings;
innovative judicial procedures such as the possibility of parties
agreeing to remove a case from the judicial process to solve it,
allowing participation of the victim in the legal process,
allowance for damages and redress to the victim, and oral
proceedings in courts. The new legislation also allows for
attribution of responsibility to minors for their transgressions,
which has resulted in fewer repeat offenses; there are no judicial
fees for a process; the burden of proof is less strict and based on
a critical evaluation of evidence at hand; there is flexibility in
accordance with the age of those involved, both for the process and
for the penalties or remedial measures.
Positive developments reported by the study
are that: institutions and society at large seem increasingly
willing to report cases; both state and non-government institutions
are increasingly supporting the work of the courts; coordination of
work between such institutions and the courts is taking place in
the departmental capitals and some municipalities, although their
efforts require further organization; courts work with
multi-disciplinary teams to develop community programs aimed, among
other things, at developing healthy relations between children and
adults within and outside the family.
The judiciary has created "Psycho-social
Assistance Centres" (Centro de Atención Psicosocial) for
assisting families; the PDDH has in place 13 special branches
nationwide and, by September 1998, 90 programs nationwide called
the Local Office of the Ombudsman for Adolescent and Children's
Rights (Defensorías Locales de los Derechos Humanos de la
Niñez y la Adolescencia) and the Integral Ombudsmen's
Offices (Defensorías Integrales). There is a growing
movement to promote sensitivity, although the campaigns have lacked
detail or clarity for developing awareness of how to use the
existing legal means.
The study also found a number of limiting
factors and shortcomings of the system. Chief among them are the
poverty levels, which the study considers decisive in the incidence
of related problems. There is also a persistence of violent
attitudes and behaviour inherited from the recent armed conflict,
and limited fora for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, which
hamper the necessary individual and social changes. The study also
found deficiencies: in the public knowledge and perception of
children's problems; in awareness programs on legislation, policies
and services; in procedures for handling cases and in special
programs; in coordination and communication efforts; in the quality
or capacity of material and human resources; in the training of
personnel; in the education system and societal values; and in
information systems. The study points many areas and institutions
in which more resources, training and changes are needed to improve
the system available to assist abused children and youth in El
Please note that the above-cited English
articles from Proceso were obtained by a CIDAI
subscription (see references below); Proceso in English
can also be found on the UCA Internet Website, at http://www.uca.edu.sv/publica/proceso/
prociind.html. However, the English editions of
Proceso Nos. 820 and 822 do not include an English
translation of the above-cited two-part report in Spanish "Pensando
en la niñez y la juventud."
This Response was prepared after
researching publicly accessible information currently available to
the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is
not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any
particular claim to refugee status or asylum.
Salvador]. 2 December 1998a. No. 833. "The Current State
of Violence in the Family." Central American University (UCA)
Center for Information, Documentation and Research Support (CIDAI).
_____. 2 December 1998b. No. 833. "News
Briefs: Violence." (CIDAI)
_____. 17 September 1998. No. 822.
"Pensando en la niñez y la juventud (II)." [Internet] http://
30 April 1999]
_____. 2 September 1998a. No. 820.
"Child Prostitution as an Industry." (CIDAI)
_____. 2 September 1998b. No. 820.
"Pensando en la niñez y la juventud (I)." [Internet] http://
30 April 1999]
Protection available for children victims of abuse, particularly incest [SLV31733.E] (Anfragebeantwortung, Französisch)