Living on the margins of El Salvador

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    This article/press release is Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) read more

    A women’s rights protest in San Salvador, El Salvador, in 2019.

    A new study draws on the experiences of vulnerable young women, trans women and sex workers in El Salvador to examine the security situation in a country plagued by violence.

    “El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world and a dangerous place for women.”

    This is the beginning of Erika Rojas’ doctoral dissertation. She investigated sexual violence in El Salvador.

    In addition to frequent natural threats from earthquakes and volcanic activity, El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America. Drug cartels, warring street gangs and corrupt security forces make the country one of the most dangerous places in the world outside of official war zones.

    The threat of sexual violence against girls, women and transgender women is a factor behind the region’s widening refugee crisis.

    In San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, clashes between police and gangsters have occurred frequently.

    Poor women are often the targets of various forms of violence. For them, the police and military are major threats to their safety, as is alienation from gangs, their own families, and the general public.

    protect yourself

    Over the course of three years, Erica Rojas interviewed and observed people from three vulnerable groups in the city of San Salvador. A poor young woman, a transgender woman, a sex worker for her.

    She used this information to explore the country’s insecurity from the perspective of its most marginalized and vulnerable citizens. Research shows that these women are largely self-sufficient in terms of avoiding violence and persecution.

    Rojas hears how Salvadoran women learned to negotiate their safety on the streets of San Salvador. Many people say that their safety depends on them. Women in this country have come to understand their vulnerable situation and say they cannot be trusted. Who. Their safety depends on how skilled they are at taking care of themselves, as they have no outside help.

    Women define safety as being able to roam freely, express themselves and live in their own country without fear of harassment or violence due to their gender identity, sexuality, dress or type of work. .

    For these women, public order is not seen as men with guns protecting the public from criminals.

    Instead, they describe security as a society’s ability to recognize the way others live, the respect of their peers, and living without violence.

    between gangsters and police

    “Few studies have investigated gender-related aspects of security in El Salvador. , documenting the conditions experienced by some of the most vulnerable sectors of El Salvadoran society,” says Rojas.

    She analyzed how these diverse women relate to their communities and police. A common theme she found was the complexity of having to live between police and gangs as a recognized local security provider.

    “Marginalized women and LGBT people in San Salvador are exposed to many forms of violence and security threats that are not considered in the country’s public security narrative. It reveals that being with people you trust in a place or situation and being under the watchful eye of a security provider can make you feel safe and threatened at the same time,” she says.

    Targeted security policy

    Documenting and amplifying the perspectives of women who are social bystanders will broaden the security discourse in a country ravaged by violence.

    Rojas’ findings should help security policymakers and practitioners in El Salvador and other Central American countries. They can be used to target people who really need it and to promote gender-, gender-, age- and race-sensitive security practices.

    “Security concerns us all, but some groups of people are more vulnerable than others. This research is an invitation to shift the debate about safety in El Salvador and elsewhere into the perspectives and experiences of marginalized and most vulnerable groups of people. It’s a way to challenge the dominant security approaches and the unequal power logic that supports them,” says Rojas.

    Erica Rojas defends her doctoral dissertation “No place is safe.” Gendered Everyday Stories in El Salvador / Frontier Safety at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences Tuesday, May 16th 12:15~.

    You can attend the event via zoom.

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