LGBT rights in El Salvador

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LGBT rights in El Salvador
El Salvador (orthographic projection).svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Military service Yes
Discrimination protections Yes, but rarely enforced
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption Same-sex couples not recognized

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in El Salvador may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in El Salvador, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Criminal Code[edit]

In El Salvador's penal code there is no mention of laws punishing homosexuality.[1] Sexual relations between people of the same sex are legal at the age of consent, which is 18.[2]

Civil rights[edit]

A national law does exist to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but discrimination remains widespread.[3] Polls show high levels of prejudice directed at LGBT people, and there are many reports of anti-gay harassment and bias-motivated violence.[4]

Much of the nation's advocacy on behalf of LGBT rights comes from Wilian Hernández, Momo (Wilian's lover) and the other members of Asociación Entre Amigos (Among Friends Association), who have faced harassment and even death threats for their activism.[5]

On 4 May 2010, President Mauricio Funes issued a presidential decree banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the public service.[2] At the same time, President Funes created a Sexual Diversity Division within the Secretary of Social Inclusion, which was headed by a member of the lesbian community.[5] Although there have been gains on removing discrimination, activists report that outside of the government and administrative areas, discrimination is still ongoing.[5]

Recognition of same-sex unions[edit]

Same-sex marriage is not recognized and the Federal Constitution does define marriage as between a man and a woman.[6] Since 2008, there have been proposals to further change the Constitution to restrict recognition of same-sex marriage, even when these are couples married legally outside of the country.[5] Individuals can adopt, but same-sex couples cannot adopt as a couple.[2] The Law on Family Violence also does not apply to same-sex couples.[2]

A 2010 poll revealed that El Salvador has some of the lowest support for legalizing same-sex marriage in Latin America at 10%.[7]

Violence against LGBT individuals[edit]

There have been multiple reports of violence and murders targeting homosexuals and transsexuals. It was reported that during the Salvadoran Civil War, the Atlacatl Battalion kidnapped and disappeared 15 transgender sex workers in 1985. This event mobilized the early activity of William Hernández and Joaquin Caceres, who formed Entre Amigos.[5]

After the civil war, violence against LGBT individuals continued. There were reports of violence targeting LGBT throughout the 1990s, and AIDS and LGBT rights activists received regular threats of violence.[6] A survey from 2006 until 2009 showed continued threats of violence against LGBT activists, violence against LGBT members, and lack of investigation by police in LGBT deaths as a result of gang violence.[2] On September 9, 2015, it was reported that El Salvador lawmakers passed a law enhancing penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.[8]


Hugo Salinas, former mayor of Intipucá, La Unión (2009-2012), is the only known openly gay person to have held public office in El Salvador. [9]


The end of the civil war and the democratization paved the way for NGOs and private citizens to campaign for HIV/AIDS education. Yet, since the 1990s, people working for such groups, most notably The Oscar Romero AIDS Project, have faced harassment and death threats.[2]

Since 2005, a national policy on HIV/AIDS has been developed, and it has gradually gotten the support of major politicians.[10] In 2009, a national health plan to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS included a prohibition on sexual orientation-based discrimination in health care.[11]

Living Conditions[edit]

While some legal advances for LGBT rights have made, public attitudes about LGBT people are often still negative, even violently intolerant.

A major reason for these negative public attitudes about LGBT people are the traditional teachings of the main religions in the country; namely the Catholic Church and several conservative, evangelical Protestant denominations.

These religious denominations believe that homosexuality and cross dressing are signs of immorality, and many of their leaders have organized opposition to LGBT rights legislation.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Always legal)
Equal age of consent Yes (Always legal)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2010)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2010)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2010)
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Emblem-question.svg

See also[edit]