In-Depth: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced this bill to address the protection and safety of women and children in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala:
“As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation which will provide resources by creating compacts with clear objectives to protect women and children survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, abuse, and neglect in the Northern Triangle. By strengthening the criminal justice systems, and family courts in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the U.S. is providing protection and empowering families who are victims of violence in Central America.”
Original cosponsor Bob Menendez (D-NJ) adds that the U.S. has a clear interest in ensuring women’s and children’s safety in the Northern Triangle:
“We cannot close our eyes or our borders to the women and children fleeing for their lives from the alarming violence in the Northern Triangle. The United States has a clear interest and responsibility to protect the most vulnerable as their lives are endangered and ensure that fewer families are destroyed, separated, or forced to flee. Through short and long term strategies to improve governance and the rule of law, this bipartisan legislation will further strengthen criminal justice systems, family courts, schools, and communities in the Northern Triangle. Developing a comprehensive approach to combating the highest female and child homicide rates in the world will lay a strong foundation for the social and economic development of Central America so that those in violence torn communities can have a more prosperous future.”
Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), sponsor of this bill’s House companion, says this bill addresses the conditions, particularly violence, that cause migration from the Northern Triangle:
“Violence is one of the main reasons women and children from Central America are forced to flee their homes in search of safe harbor at our southern border. This bill directly addresses the conditions that contribute to migration from the Northern Triangle, while ensuring that the region’s governments pursue policies that are aligned with U.S. development goals.”
International Justice Mission (IJM) supports this bill, as it believes the compacts “would protect women and children in the Northern Triangle from domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and neglect, and hold perpetrators accountable.”
This bill has six bipartisan Senate sponsors, including four Democrats and two Republicans. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs with the support of one cosponsor, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO). The House bill was also included in modified form as an amendment to the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (H.R. 2615).
Of Note: The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) points out that Northern Triangle countries are experiencing record levels of violence. This region of Central America is plagued by poverty, violence, and deteriorating government stability. In Honduras, two-thirds of the population lives in poverty and 20% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. Fewer than one in ten violent crimes are solved in Honduras, in part because many police officers also moonlight as enforcers for the organized crime syndicates that have made Honduras one of the world’s most dangerous countries. Finally, there’s been a rash of recent droughts that threaten the food security of millions.
The violence in Northern Triangle countries is a major driver of women's migration from the region. In a joint fact sheet, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Latin America Working Group and the Women’s Refugee Commission find that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) forces many women, girls and LGBTI persons to flee the Northern Triangle. They note that SGBV is “often coupled with high levels of homicide, forced disappearances, and kidnapping in these countries” and perpetrated by family members, gangs and drug traffickers (although violence by policy and other authorities is also widespread). On average, less than 10% of SGBV cases result in conviction in the Northern Triangle.
The Atlantic Council suggests that effectively addressing migration from the Northern Triangle requires that states better understand the relationship between SGBV and migration and invest in long-term solutions directed at “strengthening institutional capacity, fostering a culture of equality and accountability, and increasing access to educational and legal resources.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / vichinterlang)