HomeNewsBriefPolice, Gangs Major Perpetrators of LGBT Violence in El Salvador

Police, Gangs Major Perpetrators of LGBT Violence in El Salvador


Data collected by activists suggest security forces and gang members are the principal perpetrators of violence against members of the LGBTI communities in El Salvador, highlighting the under-prosecution of crimes against sexual minorities in Central America. 

Karla Avelar, president of the Trans Communication and Training Association (Asociación Comunicando y Capacitando Trans – COMCAVIS TRANS) in San Salvador, says data her organization collected on over 600 murders of members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, or Intersex (LGBTI) community since 1993 shows that police officers and gang members are the principal perpetrators, reported ACAN-EFE

Activists had to track down and investigate the circumstances of these deaths because there is no public agency in El Salvador that registers the sexual orientation or gender identity of homicide victims. 

Avelar says that crimes against members of the LGBTI community are not isolated, that they generally follow a certain pattern, and go systematically unprosecuted. She says that transgender men and women are particularly targeted. 

According to ACAN-EFE, in the first three months of 2016 Avelar’s organization has documented 29 cases of sexual minorities forced to flee their homes — and sometimes the country — due to threats, extortion, and attempts on their life by police officers or gang members. 

In 2015 there was a rash of prominent attacks carried out against members of the LGBTI community in El Salvador, including the separate murders of two transgender women and the police-beating of a transgender man. 

El Salvador’s penal code does not include provisions for hate crime penalties for crimes targeting victims based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

InSight Crime Analysis

This is not the first time police and gangs have been identified as principal perpetrators of violence against the LGBTI community in El Salvador. A 2012 report on Sexual Diversity in El Salvador from the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley cites instances of gangs requiring new members to carry out attacks against members of the LGBTI community as part of their initiation. It also documents instances of rape, abuse, and physical attacks carried out by police officers against gay men and trans women in particular. 

The report echoed Avelar’s concerns regarding lack of investigation and prosecution of violence against the LGBTI community, particularly when police officers were named in the complaint.

Regionally, civil society organizations in Honduras have also identified police and gangs as principal perpetrators of violence against the LGBTI community. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Rights

Amid a broader crisis of violence and impunity in El Salvador, in which gangs and security forces are often pitted against each other, the victimization of LGBTI-identified individuals by security forces and gangs alike points to a shared culture of unchecked violent masculinity. 

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content


Salvador Sánchez Cerén, El Salvador's president since 2014, left office last weekend with little to show for his tenure, in…


New statistics show that Mexico recorded its highest ever number of disappearances in 2014, in a timely reminder that the…


A deputy with El Salvador's ruling FMLN party traveled to Washington, DC last month to intervene in the offices of Congress…

About InSight Crime


We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.


InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area


Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…


InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…


InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …


InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas


In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…