Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


International Affairs

First Advisor

Lorraine Bayard de Volo

Second Advisor

Heidi Burgess

Third Advisor

Victoria Hunter


This paper is a study of gender and human rights abuses. Using the Salvadoran Civil War as a case study, it explores the following question: how were human rights abuses in this conflict gendered? This study aims to determine whether men and women were affected differently by this war, and if so, in what ways. It furthermore inquires into the specific experiences of women in this conflict. I draw primary source information from the unique archives collection of La Oficina de Tutela Legal del Arzobispado, the Office of Legal Protection of the Archbishop, from which I randomly selected 50 women’s files and 50 men’s files, coded each, and analyzed for gendered patterns.

Activists’ testimony shows that women faced a variety of human rights abuses in this conflict, including sexual violence. There is literature to be found on human rights abuses in this conflict, and on sexual violence. But the critical gap which this study fills is the need for an examination of human rights abuses against women, not excluding sexual violence, but not limited to it, either.

Once controlled for an imbalance in gender, it was found that many human rights abuses recorded had a higher proportion of female victims. This includes torture, hooding, and forced confessions. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to face beatings below the level of what constitutes torture, and disappearance. Additionally, all three victims confirmed dead were male.

And yet, another key finding was the lack of information to be found in primary sources of the human right abuses committed in this war. In fact, I discovered that it was most common to find no abuse besides a victim’s abduction and detainment recorded at all. It can be gathered that there were barriers to the complete recording of all human rights abuses committed. This has especially adverse effects for the studying of human rights abuses against women. Although activists’ testimony and other research shows that many women who were detained faced sexual violence, and some men did too, I didn’t find any record of sexual violence in the 100 cases recorded. Accordingly, we must question why these abuses were not recorded when we know that they occurred. An important finding of this study is the lack of this information in official reports of nonprofits, and therefore the governmental and intergovernmental reports and academic literature which depend on them.