Honduras is making strides in female representation in politics.
After a 12-year reign of the National Party in Honduras, Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre) member Xiomara Castro was sworn in as the country’s first female president at a soccer stadium in the country’s capital Tegucigalpa on Thursday, according to the BBC.
Castro replaces President Juan Orlando Hernández, who has held the position for eight years and has been accused of corruption and drug trade ties. Her pledges to address corruption and scandal, alleviate poverty, and promote more robust reproductive rights laws secured her victory.
The president received the most number of votes in Honduras’ history, according to CNN. The democratic socialist candidate won against the conservative National Party and her opponent, Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura, by a landslide of more than 14 points during the 2021 presidential election in November 2021. What started as a campaign to get Castro’s husband — who was ousted as president in a 2009 military coup — to run again in 2013 and 2017 turned into Castro entering the 2021 race herself as a presidential candidate.
Taiwanese Vice President William Lai and US Vice President Kamala Harris were in attendance at the inauguration. Harris pledged to support Castro’s efforts to reduce migration and fight corruption.
Economic insecurity, inequality, corruption, and violence have driven hundreds of thousands of Hondurans to flee the country, many of them seeking asylum in the US.
"The economic catastrophe that I'm inheriting is unparalleled in the history of our country," Castro said in her inauguration speech. "My government will not continue the maelstrom of looting that has condemned generations of young people to pay the debt they incurred behind their back."
Our relationship with Honduras is an important one. Today I met with President Xiomara Castro to discuss deepening our cooperation across a broad range of issues, including addressing the root causes of migration, combatting corruption, and expanding economic opportunity. pic.twitter.com/fGBfHSWqSs— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) January 28, 2022
One of Castro’s first orders of action is to provide free electricity to 1 million Hondurans living in poverty. Nearly 50% of the population remains below the national poverty line, according to the World Bank.
Honduras also has the highest femicide rate in Latin America. Activists are hopeful that Castro’s nomination will open up doors for other women in government and that she will advance women’s rights in the country, according to the Guardian.
The president is expected to undo restrictions on emergency contraceptives soon and work to eventually legalize abortion (restrictions of which disproportionately affect impoverished women in the country) in the case of rape, when a mother’s life is at risk, and when the fetus isn’t viable. Castro’s transition team has also already started working with women’s rights groups to draft violence against women legislation, and she has said she wants to open more domestic violence shelters, promote women’s economic development, and introduce comprehensive sexual education in schools.