Thursday, March 25, 2010

El Salvador: Murders, kidnappings, sexual assaults, all too frequent

Violence against women and girls in El Salvador remains prevalent and pervasive, with the number of murders on the rise and kidnappings, sexual assaults and sexual harassment all too frequent, an independent United Nations human rights expert has warned.

Rashida Manjoo (photo), the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, wrapped up a three-day visit to El Salvador on Saturday by stressing that the Central American country still faces “significant challenges” in dealing with gender-based violence.

“Of particular concern to me is the growing prevalence and forms of such violence, especially the alarming rise in the numbers of murders of women and girls and the brutality inflicted on their bodies, which is often accompanied by kidnapping and sexual assault,” she said in a statement.

Ms. Manjoo expressed concern that the violence against women and girls is taking place in so many different settings.

“Domestic violence, sexual abuse against women and children in the home and the community, violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, particularly in the maquila sector [factories operating in duty-free zones] and the domestic sphere, police-related violence and sexual commercial exploitation” are all serious problems, the Special Rapporteur said.

She said that although El Salvador “has come a long way in institution-building and human rights protection since the end of the 12-year civil war in 1992,” impunity for crimes, socio-economic inequalities and a macho culture “foster a generalized state of violence,” as had been noted by her predecessor during a visit in 2004.

Ms. Manjoo, who met with Salvadorian Government officials, UN staff and civil society representatives during her visit, serves in an unpaid and independent capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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