SEATTLE, Washington — In Honduras, minimal opportunities, a sexist culture and a lack of government protection leave women facing a constant threat of violence and abuse. Women’s rights in Honduras are often not respected and are regularly violated.
Lack of Opportunities
Gender inequality in Honduras is cemented in a social and cultural understanding of a woman’s role. Women are expected to tend to the domestic front and must balance professional work with the responsibility of raising their children and managing a household. The result is that “men are twice as likely to be employed in Honduras than women.” Gender stereotypes also filter the types of employment available to women. Typically male-held jobs are difficult for women to break into, and even if they are able to, they are paid less than their male colleagues.
A lack of professional opportunities affects Honduran women’s’ overall economic independence. While homeownership lands around 59% for men in Honduras, it is only 38% for women. Women are also more likely to suffer from extreme poverty, as they make up the majority of Hondurans who survive on less than $2 a day.
Violence Against Women
Labeled “one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a woman”, Honduras is home to rampant gender violence. The violence stems in part from Honduras’ culture of sexism and machismo attitudes: the belief that men are “strong and unemotional, while women are vulnerable and needy.” Violence against women is a show of power and an effort to establish male authority.
This desire to prove one’s masculinity greatly endangers women, both inside and outside of their homes. According to a 2014 report by Protection International, 27% of Honduran women “have suffered physical violence at one time or another in their lives.” In 2012, of the accusations reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding violence against women, 74.6% involved domestic and family violence and 20% involved sex crimes. An analyst at Honduras’ Center for Women’s Rights, told ABC News, “Men can do anything they want to women in Honduras.”
Femicide, which is defined as “the killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man and on account of her gender”, is also a constant threat to women in Honduras. An article by the Latin America Working Group cited that in 2017 alone there were 388 femicides in Honduras, meaning that “over 32 women were killed on average every month.”
Despite these overwhelming numbers, most perpetrators are not punished. A United Nations report in 2014 found that “ 95% of cases of sexual violence and femicide in Honduras were never even investigated.” This rate of impunity leaves thousands of women with no semblance of justice after being abused. It also means that many women are deterred from reporting their abuse due to a lack of faith in the government’s ability to protect them. Impunity is not the only way that the Honduran Government fails to protect its women. Emergency contraception and abortions are illegal, meaning that, even in the case of rape, women must carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Migration to the United States
The threats to women’s rights in Honduras has increased migration to the United States. The number of asylum seekers hailing from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala has risen by 800% between 2012 to 2017. Furthermore, 82% of women from these three countries, seek asylum due to a fear of violence and persecution.
However, the wish for asylum is rarely fulfilled. In 2018, for instance, of the thousands of asylum seekers from Honduras, only 21% of cases were approved.
These numbers mean that thousands of women and children who have risked their lives to journey to the border are sent back home to the danger and violence they wish to escape.
Fighting for Women’s Rights in Honduras
Fortunately, there are organizations that are leading the fight for women’s rights in Honduras. Ciudad Mujer is an initiative that supports the safety and success of women in Honduras. The organization offers a variety of in-person programs, including those in education, sexual and reproductive health, protection of women’s rights, economic autonomy as well as adolescent and child care. Ciudad Mujer also offers virtual services, an essential tool during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizations such as Ciudad Mujer provide invaluable resources to support women’s rights in Honduras. However, more needs to be done by the Honduran Government in order to protect women from violence and hold perpetrators accountable. Honduras needs political and systematic changes in order to tackle the country’s culture of sexism and abuse and assure that women can finally feel safe in their country.
– Jessica Blatt