Electing Xiomara Castro as Honduras’ first female president is a huge step forward for women
Xiomara Castro was sworn in as Honduras’ president on Thursday, the first woman to hold the position since the Central American country became a republic in 1821.
“Two hundred years have passed since our independence was proclaimed. We’re breaking chains and we’re breaking traditions,” Castro said in her inauguration speech.
Castro, from the centre-left Libre party, won a landslide victory in the 28 November election with 51% of the vote share and 1.7 million votes – the largest number of votes in the country’s history. Her election marks the end to the 12-year reign of the right-wing National Party, and highlights the country’s aspiration for change.
“Nothing about us, without us”
Castro has vowed to tackle corruption, poverty and violence, and advance Indigenous rights. Actions to improve the condition of women are also on the agenda.
In her plan for government, Castro calls for a more inclusive economic development and gender parity in politics, where women are underrepresented. Women in Honduras are still considered second-class citizens, she wrote in her plan, where she explained how being a woman had been one of the main arguments against her presidential candidacy.
Castro also seeks to address gender-based violence, and supports the creation of shelters for survivors. Honduras has the highest rate of femicide in Latin America, affecting about 5 women for every 100,000 according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Castro discloses that one sexual assault is reported every three hours, and 20 thousand domestic violence complaints are filed per year.
Castro’s plan also includes the implementation of sexual education programmes in schools to curb teenage pregnancy, a huge problem in the country. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the adolescent birth rate in Honduras is 89 per 1,000 girls – more than twice the global average.
She has pledged to legalise abortion in the case of rape, when the mother’s life is at risk and when the foetus is not viable – a significant move in a country with draconian legislation in terms of reproductive rights.
Although Xiomara Castro is planning to make big social changes in Honduras, she is taking office amid a dispute with dissidents in her own party, leading to a split in the newly elected Congress which could hinder the fulfilment of her promises. But her election as president is already a huge step forward for the women of Honduras.