As in most of Latin America, Honduran women must cope with a host of sexist, macho attitudes from men, especially in rural society where women are expected to stay indoors and keep quiet when matters of business are being discussed. A budding feminist movement has taken root but has a long way to go to combat the ingrained machismo. According to government estimates, some 500,000 women suffer from physical abuse at the hands of men. Honduras has many single mothers; it’s very common for women to have one or two children by age 20. Many marriages are informal, and men have little compunction about leaving their wives for another woman. And men who do stay married are practically expected to sleep with prostitutes (legal in Honduras) or have affairs.
Despite the social obstacles, women have become more active in Honduran public life of late. Women have begun to play an increasingly important role in civil organizations in the last decades. Some of the most effective social organizers, labor leaders, and environmental activists in the country are women. Women play an ever-larger role in the country’s labor force, as they account for nearly all the workers in the rapidly growing maquila factory sector. Several Honduran women also hold highly visible roles in Honduran politics, such as past Tegucigalpa mayor Vilma de Castellanos and the highly respected president of the Honduran Central Bank, Gabriela Núñez de Reyes.
For an excellent and at times harrowing account of life as a woman in rural Honduras, read Elvia Alvarado’s Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition