In the decades since its civil war, El Salvador has experienced high rates of community violence, mainly due to gang activities and organised crime, which disproportionately victimise children and young people. Salvadoran gangs are known to forcibly recruit children, putting them at risk of falling into a lifetime of crime. High rates of violence also significantly threaten the well-being and safety of Salvadoran children.
In March 2021, El Salvador’s President embarked on a crackdown on gang violence, declaring a ‘state of exception’. The emergency measures introduced, suspended certain constitutional rights. In total, eight reforms were pushed through the congress at this time, including the ability to sentence minors aged between 12 and 16 for up to 10 years in prison for gang-related crimes. In reality, it is likely that many innocent young people will have been wrongfully arrested due to the government's tough approach, with children and young people on the streets becoming even more vulnerable to being wrongfully caught up in the government's crackdown on crime.