"For a Social Security System without Discrimination": New LGBTI+ Study Shows Disparity in Access to Public Services


Organizations from the Salvadoran LGBTI+ social movement held a public forum last week to present findings from a new study that unveiled the alarming disparities that LGBTI+ people in El Salvador continue to face in accessing social security services, employment, and education. Although vulnerability in these areas affects the majority of the Salvadoran working class, the study found that certain factors such as age, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity increase or compound that vulnerability, sometimes significantly, by restricting access to public services.

Much of the progress achieved by the LGBTI+ social movement with the support of the FMLN over the last 10 years is under threat by the new administration, activists say. The Social Inclusion Secretariat, for example, which housed the Sexual Diversity Directorate and was established under the FMLN, was eliminated by new Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele within his first weeks in office. And although he Tweeted shortly thereafter that the work of the Sexual Diversity Directorate would be moved to the Ministry of Culture, no funds were tagged for sexual diversity or LGBTI+ inclusion in the recently released national budget. Additionally, as activists in El Salvador have called out, the Ministry of Culture is not structured to develop public policies that guarantee human, economic, social, civil, or political rights to the LGBTI+ community. Further, the Social Inclusion Secretariat was the institution designated to implement the Funes-era decree that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation/gender identity in public administration, meaning that with its dissolution there is no institution responsible for the compliance of the decree, as Roberto Zapata, lead investigator of the study, activist, and Director of AMATE, noted.

This threat reflects a root problem that the study addresses: the fact that issues of exclusion and discrimination against LGBTI+ people still do not factor in to the development of public policy. As a result, LGBTI+ people in El Salvador have virtually no legal guarantee that, in the case of a change in administration, as has just occurred, those advances will continue. “Unlike other disadvantaged groups such as women, people with disabilities, and youth, the LGBTI+ community in El Salvador does not have any specific law or international treaty that explicitly binds the government to ensure our human rights,” Mr. Zapata said.

 Therefore, making visible the reality of discrimination, inequality, and structural violence that LGBTI+ people continue to face in El Salvador is vital for advancing the struggle of this community and for creating a more equitable and just society for all. To this end, researchers contributed their findings, which showed inequality and discrimination spanning a variety of indexes, including the following:

  • Disparity in years of education attained between trans women (avg 10.6 years) and cisgender men (more than 14 years)
  • A high (1 in 3) rate among LGBTI+ people of having to leave home due to discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Disparity in the rate of social security coverage between the LGBTI+ population (40.1% ) and the overall “economically active” population (59.4%), a gap of almost 20 percentage points
  • A high (50%) rate of exclusion from the labor market among LGBTI people and precarity within it
  • A high rate of self-employed LGBTI+ people who do not receive social security benefits
  • Very low wages among self-employed LGBTI+ people (only 45% reach the minimum wage of $300/mo)
  • A high (13.7%) rate of unemployment among LGBTI people vs the general population (5.9%) in San Salvador
  • Disparity in access to social security benefits among partners: up to 21% of LGBTI people could access healthcare within the social security system as a beneficiary if that system granted them the same benefits it does to opposite-sex partners

The main proposal following the findings of this investigation is for the Executive Branch to reform the social security system to guarantee the LGBTI+ community equal access to benefits and services. One mechanism to achieve this is recognizing same-sex and gender-nonconforming relationships (including non-marital unions). Such a measure, say activists, would strengthen the role of the state sector in caring for LGBTI+ people: it would improve their health and economic conditions as well as those of their families while also reducing precarity in the LGBTI+ population and bridging inequality between heterosexual and LGBTI+ groups. Researchers say they are aware that this proposal will face criticism and opposition from a variety of sectors, including the current government but that they will continue to fight for equal access to rights and services provided by the State. They recognize that their proposal will require more resources: “that is why, along with the institutional reform of the social security system, we join the rest of the social movement in demanding progressive taxation and other structural reforms in the social security system of El Salvador to make big corporations pay their fair share,” Mr. Zapata said.

Read the fully study (in Spanish) or follow the contributing organizations, AMATE, FEASIES, ORMUSA, on social media.  

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