University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.46, Doc. 23 rev. 1 (1978).






American Declaration

Article II

All persons are equal before the law and have the rights and duties established in this Declaration, without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed or any other factor. [1]/

1. During its visit to El Salvador, the Special Committee received reports, that some provisions of the legislation in force in El Salvador, especially of the Civil Code. In practice imply discrimination on account of sex or birth, despite the constitutional standards that establishes that all men are equal before the law. (Article 150).

2. In a communication from the representative of a group of women lawyers, devoted to the study of the legal status of Salvadoran women. It was stated that “Our political Constitution, is a very modern legal document, which eliminates racial, political, religious, and sex discrimination. Since all men (in the fullest sense) are equal before the law”, but despite that, many provisions of the civil and criminal legislation, secondary and administrative regulations, such as those that set the minimum wages of field workers, contain discriminations against women.”

3. Among the specific examples presented in that communication, two show cases of evident discrimination:

A. Discrimination against women on account of adultery.

There is discrimination, among the grounds for divorce, in Article 145 of the Civil Code.

For the men to obtain a divorce on this ground the adultery for the woman is sufficient, but for adultery on the part of the man to constitute grounds for divorce the adultery must be accompanied by “public scandal” or “abandonment of the woman”.

B. Discrimination between children bore in and out of wedlock.

In Articles 34 and 35 of the Civil Code, children continue to be referred to as legitimate or illegitimate, and the latter are called natural when they have been recognized by their Father, or children of an illicit union, if they have resulted from adulterous or incestuous relations.

Effects of this classification.

A) If there is a legitimate descendant or descendants the other s are excluded from the inheritance, and the natural children have only the right to claim maintenance up to the amount of one third of the inheritance.

B) If there are no legitimate descendants, the natural children participate in the inheritance along with the ascendant relatives.

C) Adultery or incestuous children do not have even the right to claim maintenance.

D) Adultery children cannot be legitimated by the subsequent marriage of their parents and, obviously, neither can incestuous children be, since their progenitors are prohibited from marrying on account of their relationship.

All these classifications work against human dignity, encourage paternal irresponsibility, and leave the whole burden of support of the children on the mother.

4. In addition to these specific points, discriminations are alleged in regard to wages of campesino women and woman domestic workers.

In this regard there is a commination in the hands of the Commission that states:

“In the wages of permanent agricultural labor, women earn 0.60 less than men per regular working day, their wage being the same as that of a male worker under 16 years of age or a partially disabled man. Here I consider there is obvious discrimination, since if the work done by a woman had to be done by a man, he would earn 0.60 more than she.”

5. The report concludes with the statement that “The Organization of American States can contribute, with its actions and suggestions to eliminating the legal discriminations and gaps existing, not only in this country, but in all those member countries whose laws contain provisions injurious to human rights.”


[1] American Convention on Human Rights

Article 17 - Rights of the Family

4. The States Parties shall take appropriate steps to ensure the equality of rights and the adequate balancing of responsibilities of the spouses as to marriage, during marriage, and in the event of its dissolution. Incase of dissolution, provisions shall be made for a the necessary protection of any children solely on the basis of their own best interest.

5. The law shall recognize equal rights for children born out of wedlock and those born in wedlock.

Article 24 - right to Equal Protection

All persons are equal before the law. Consequently, they are entitled, without discrimination, to equal protection of the law.


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