Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

Honduras: The Fight against Violence Begins at Home

Don Ramón’s* niece took him to the hospital one day with the pretext of a check-up and never came back for him. In his seventies and recovering from a road accident, he had become a burden on the family. 

For 12 years, Alicia slept by the side of a man who beat and abused her, and once left her for dead after attacking her with a pipe.  She felt she had no alternative.

Sheila was physically and verbally ill-treated by the sister-in-law who was sent to live with her and her husband, supposedly to help her manage because she was disabled. 

With his single mother away all day working in the maquila, Daniel spent his childhood years in the care of a neighbor who had no qualms about hitting him if he stepped out of line. As he got older, he turned to the friendship of other kids in the neighborhood for the support he never got at home. 

When thinking about violence in Honduras, thoughts often turn to arms-toting gangs. However, the problem is much broader, with violent behaviors permeating society as a whole. Deeply-rooted patriarchal patterns demand men to be “strong” and women to “know their place”.  Popular culture, through TV programs and song lyrics, perpetuates models that promote—and even glamorize—violence and vilify women and those perceived as “weak”.

According to the Observatory on Violence at the Universidad Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH), youths between the ages of 20 and 24 are most at risk of dying a violent death. But civil society organizations also estimate that in 2015 a woman was killed every 16 minutes in Honduras. 

The lucky ones, those who survive, are scarred for life. Survivors of violence – be it physical or psychological – carry the long-term consequences of trauma and feel they are prevented from achieving their dreams and potential. Violent and broken households are one of the main drivers of the migration of unaccompanied children, and expose youths to the risk of recruitment by criminal gangs which replace absent families. 

With a view to enhancing social cohesion and ensuring the well-being of its citizens, the Municipality of San Pedro Sula – the city with the highest violence indicators nationwide – has identified women, children and youths, people with disabilities, and the elderly as needing focused attention and action to protect them from violence.

IDLO is assisting municipal social services staff in designing an efficient, unified mechanism to respond to domestic, intra-family and gender violence, with special emphasis on these four vulnerable groups. This work aims to provide victims with effective recourses to break out of violent situations and obtain justice. 

Providing services to respond to violence is a necessary step – but working to prevent its re-occurrence is just as important.

In a bid to promote a shift from a culture of violence to one of respect, and to ensure victims are aware of the options available, IDLO is also supporting the development of an awareness–raising campaign.

True to IDLO’s participative methodology, the campaign is being designed through a series of workshops, which put the target audiences at the heart of the process; these are being organized in collaboration with the Municipality and civil society partners.

A series of meetings with women who have survived gender violence, people with different kinds of disabilities, youths from troubled neighborhoods, and residents in the municipal care-home have allowed each of these groups to share experiences, express concerns, provide input on preferred communication channels and tools, and actively take part in the definition of messages and slogans. 

Each group had their unique dynamics and challenges. Each person carried the burden of past and current suffering.  But all of them – from the 10-year-old girl reflecting on what she would say to a friend who was being abused to the young victim of sexual violence with tears in her eyes and the grey-haired man looking back on his life from the shade of the care-home patio – participated wholeheartedly, making sure that the campaign will give a voice to all the Don Ramons, the Alicias, the Sheilas, and the Daniels, who still think there is no way out of the violence that blights their lives. 

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of violence survivors