In 2011, El Salvador passed a specific law to combat violence against women, the Ley Especial Integral para una Vida Libre de Violencia para las Mujeres
, which came into effect on 1 January 2012 and supported the Law on Intra-Family Violence.
It defines violence as economic, psychological, physical, “patrimonial”, symbolic and sexual. Its 61 articles comprehensively address the question of violence, including sexual harassment, negative stereotyping in the media, misogyny, sexism, pornography, femicide and rape. It proposes assistance and protection programmes for victims, prevention programmes, vocational skills programmes to support victims in learning skills to re-enter the labour market, and awareness-raising campaigns.
In 1996, El Salvador passed domestic violence
legislation (Ley contra la Violencia Intrafamiliar
), that covered all members of the family, including women, children and seniors.
It defined domestic violence as “patrimonial” (that is, lack of access to family resources, assets and entitlements), psychological, physical and sexual. The Penal Code specifies that domestic violence is punishable by one to three years in prison.
High levels of domestic violence continue to be reported. A 2008 national survey found that 44% of women who had been married or lived with a partner had suffered psychological violence, 24% had experienced physical violence and 12% were victims of sexual violence. 
In 2013, 5,513 cases of domestic violence were recorded.
According to the 2011 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, in El Salvador “violence within the family remains largely concealed by prevailing social attitudes that condone it and by the reluctance of victims to report abuse.”
Impunity for domestic violence offences is also a frequent occurrence, and those who do come forward are often revictimised by the law enforcement system. 
The law criminalises rape
, and the criminal code’s definition of rape may apply to spousal rape.
The law requires the state prosecutor 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 6 to 10 years of imprisonment, but the law provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years for rape of 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.
The UN Human Rights Council reports that high levels of rape and sexual abuse continue to be a cause of concern in El Salvador. 
According to the most recent data, in 2008 alone, there were 4,120 sexual violence cases, up from 3,368 in 2007, documented by the Institute of Forensic Medicine.
Impunity regarding cases of sexual violence is high – with recent data showing that “of the 2,057 cases of sexual violence brought to court by the Office of the Procurator-General in 2008, 812 were provisionally dismissed, 385 were definitively dismissed and 700 went to trial.”
Ultimately, those trials resulted in 200 convictions and 153 acquittals.
Ley Especial Integral para una Vida Libre de Violencia para las Mujeres
seeks to address some of these shortcomings, for example through the creation of specialised police units designed to address violence against women.
is defined under the Penal Code as any undesired acts, gestures and behaviour of a sexual nature. It is punishable by three to five years in prison.
If the victim is a minor, the punishment is four to eight years in prison. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also addressed in the Ley Especial Integral para una Vida Libre de Violencia para las Mujeres
However, according to the UN Human Rights Council, sexual harassment remains a problem in the country, sometimes at very severe levels. Sexual harassment is often met with inefficient responses by law enforcement officials and inefficient services, leading to high levels of impunity for offences.
The 2011 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences states that women working in maquila
plants and as domestic workers are at particular risk of violent harassment and high levels of exploitation.
There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practised in El Salvador.
Salvadoran gang activity is also a large contributor to the phenomenon of femicide
– the murder of women because they are women – in the country. According to an article published in Gender & Development
journal in 2007 which examined the phenomenon across the region, femicide represents the ultimate form of gender-based violence “that is intrinsically linked to deeply entrenched gender inequality and discrimination, economic disempowerment, and aggressive or machismo masculinity.”
The killings are typified by extreme brutality and violence and by the failure of police to investigate, and they have been linked to the high levels of gang-related crime in El Salvador.
In 2006, El Salvador reported 12.7 homicides for every 100,000, bringing it over the 10 per 100,000 that the WHO classifies as an epidemic.
El Salvador is now the country with the highest murder rate of women in the world.
In 2012, based on recommendations from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Attorney General of El Salvador approved a national protocol to guide officials tasked with investigating femicide,
and both femicide and femicidal violence are defined under the country’s Law for a Life Free from Violence for Women.
Both the UN Special Rapporteur for Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women ( CEDAW) have expressed concern about the trafficking of women and girls in El Salvador and the low number of prosecutions and convictions for those involved.
is illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador, even when a woman’s life is at risk.
In 2008, the CEDAW Committee noted that clandestine abortions are a major cause of maternal mortality in El Salvador. In 2013, the Constitutional Board of the Supreme Court denied a Salvadorian woman suffering from lupus the right to a therapeutic termination of the pregnancy that was threatening her life. After a ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the government of El Salvador authorised the medical procedure for the woman.
 See El Salvador country profile on the UN Secretary General database on violence against women (with link to the Law in Spanish): http://sgdatabase.unwomen.org/searchDetail.action?measureId=49703&baseHREF=country&baseHREFId=472 (accessed 3 December 2013)  See El Salvador country profile on the UN Secretary General database on violence against women: http://sgdatabase.unwomen.org/searchDetail.action?measureId=49703&baseHREF=country&baseHREFId=472 (accessed 3 December 2013)  Article 3, Ley contra la Violencia Intrafamiliar (1996)  Article 200, Penal Code of El Salvador: http://www.oas.org/dil/esp/Codigo_Penal_El_Salvador.pdf  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 8  Corto Suprema de Justicia: http://www.csj.gob.sv:88/?op=content&seccion=11&categoria=tru&id=89 (accessed 3 December 2013)  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 7  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 17  US Department of State (2013)  US Department of State (2013) http://www.isdemu.gob.sv/index.php?Itemid=237&lang=es&option=com_phocadownload&view=sections  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 7  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 16  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 12  Article 165, Penal Code of El Salvador  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 8  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 8  Prieto-Carrón et al. (2007), p. 26  Stone, Hannah (2011)  OAS (2012), p. 29  UN Women (2013a)  UN Women (2013a)  OAS (2012), p. 30  UN Human Rights Council (2011), p. 11; CEDAW (2008)  Article 133 of the Penal Code; UN DESA (2013)  CEDAW (2008), p. 35  Amnesty International. https://www.es.amnesty.org/actua/acciones/elsalvador-beatriz/ (accessed 05/05/2014)