Rights in Exile Programme

Refugee Legal Aid Information for Lawyers Representing Refugees Globally

El Salvador LGBTI Resources

(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)


Same-sex sexual acts are legal in El Salvador and the age of consent (18) is equal for heterosexual and homosexual acts, as recorded in ILGA's 2013 world survey of laws.

Presidential Decree 56 of 12 May 2010 prohibits discrimination against members of the LGBT community by public employees. The same decree has instituted a National Directorate for Sexual Diversity within the Secretary for Social Inclusion.



NAM v Holder, Attorney General, Nos. 07-9580 and 08-9527, US Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, 20 November 2009: The case recognised that the applicant had suffered persecution in El Salvador due to her transgender identity.

Reyes-Reyes v Ashcroft, 384 F.3d 782 (9th Cir. 2004): The case concerned the application of the UN Convention against Torture, for the claimant had failed to file an asylum claim within appropriate time limits. However, the US Court of Appeals recognised that homosexual males with a ‘female sexual identity’ are likely to face persecution in El Salvador.



In 2003, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about violent attacks and killings of LGBTI persons and of the lack of investigations into these crimes. Between 1998 and 2006, 45 gay or bisexual Salvadorian men were killed on account of their sexual orientation. The University of Berkeley’s International Human Rights Law Clinic reported the murder of 11 LGBTI individuals in 2008, 23 in 2009 and 10 in 2010, many of them following extreme violence. More particularly, June 2009 has become known as ‘Bloody June”. No one has been convicted of any of the murders occurring during this month.

Both the US State Department and the University of Berkeley’s International Human Rights Law Clinic confirm that police authorities remained widely engaged in violent acts and discrimination against LGBTI populations in 2012. In February 2012, a gay adolescent in Soyapango was severely beaten by gang members until he lost unconsciousness, possibly with police complicity.

The Berkeley study suggests that the National Directorate for Sexual Diversity does not facilitate the investigation of crimes against LGBTI persons. While victims can in theory submit police reports and file complaints, in practice they abstain from reporting violence as they fear abuse, harassment and mockery during such procedures. 



No NGOs working with LGBTI populations are listed here, but we welcome suggestions. 



Dr Harry E. Vanden

Email: vandenatusf [dot] edu

Dr Harry E. Vanden is Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of South Florida, Tamp. He holds a Ph.D., Political Science with a minor concentration in Latin American Studies from The New School for Social Research, New York and an M.A in Political Science and a graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He has written and researched extensively on Central America political conditions and Central American Gang Activity. He has also carried out election observation in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mozambique. He has acted as an expert Witness on country conditions in U.S. Immigration, Federal and State Courts in the areas of general political and social conditions, gangs and gang victimization in Central America, status of homosexuals and domestic violence. His most recent published books include:

  • Social Movements and Leftists Governments in Latin America. London: Zed Press, 2012, Gary Prevost, Carlos Oliva and Harry E. Vanden, ed. 
  • José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology of His Writings. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011, translated and edited by Harry E. Vanden and Marc Becker
  • Latin America: An Introduction. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011
  • Gary Prevost and Harry E. Vanden; Politics of Latin America: The Power Game. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4th edition (further revised with additional new chapter on U.S.- Latin American Relations ), 2012, Harry E. Vanden and Gary Prevost
  • Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-First Century, Resistance, Power, and Democracy, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008, Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden and Glen Kuecker, eds (Chosen as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 2009)
  • Inter-American Relations in an Era of Globalization. Beyond Unilaterialism? Whitby, Ontario: de Sitter Publications, 2007, Jorge Nef. and Harry E. Vanden, eds.


Researched by: Minos Mouzourakis
minosmouzourakisatgmail [dot] com