Dual Crises: KIND Report on Gender-Based Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic

December 1, 2021

Dual Crises:

Gender-Based Violence and Inequality Facing Children and Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

Gender-based violence has long been one of the main drivers of migration from Central America to the United States. Widespread violence, including sexual abuse, human trafficking, and violence in the home and family, combined with a lack of access to protection and justice forces children and women to flee in search of safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in this violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras due to multiple factors, including stay-at-home measures that have left many children and women trapped at home with abusive family members and the deepened economic insecurity that has heightened household tensions. The closure of schools and other public spaces, the decreased capacity of already weak child protection and judicial institutions, and the shifting of public resources to respond to the pandemic have left survivors with few options for seeking protection and support. Gangs and other organized criminal groups swiftly adapted to the new normal, taking advantage of COVID-related restrictions to tighten or expand their control over people and territory by using violence to enforce restrictions on movement in communities.

Drawing on existing research and interviews with children’s and women’s rights experts, this report lays out how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already pervasive forms of violence against children and women in Central America, as well as the deeply entrenched gender inequality that leaves children and women even more vulnerable to violence. This report also details recommendations for how the Central American and U.S. governments can confront this crisis to ensure the protection of children and women and mitigate continued forced migration from the region.

*Cover photo by photojournalist Guillermo Martinez shows a boy in El Salvador wearing a protective mask from his home during a COVID-19 lockdown. Photo credit: Guillermo Martinez/APHOTOGRAFIA/ Getty Images

Full Report

Executive Summary