Story at a glance
- After years of activism, Puerto Rico’s government is overhauling its approach to helping victims of sexist hate crimes.
- Activists are reviewing the new committees Gov. Pierluisi established.
On Monday, Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared a state of emergency on the U.S. territory due to the alarming amounts of violence against women that are occurring on the island.
2020 police statistics estimate that 44 women were murdered, and 11 of these attacks were motivated by gender-based violence. Transgender women are also especially vulnerable to hate crimes, recently brought to light in the aftermath of the murders of Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Peláez in April 2020.
El Vocero de Puerto Rico reports that it has been a struggle to get the government to take action, even when former governor Wanda Vásquez declared a similar state of national alert due to the disproportionate murder of women, announcing the territory would pursue related investigations.
Women’s rights advocacy organizations, however, insisted that it wasn’t enough.
But Pierluisi’s decision registered as more effectual with activists.
“For us, it’s a victory because the island has already been requesting for two years the declaration of a state of emergency and, well, it was finally decreed the way it had to be done: with an executive order that includes specific issues to address the violence towards women in Puerto Rico,” Amárilis Pagán, the director of the activist group Proyecto Matria, said in a statement to reporters.
Pagán clarified that she and other members of Proyecto Matria met at La Fortaleza, which serves as the residence of the governor, last Friday to present guidelines for the Pierluisi to implement that can effectively address femicide on the island.
The same group is reportedly reviewing Pierluisi’s order to ensure it follows the organization’s recommendations. So far, the order will set up a government commission to finance and monitor the implementation of mitigating measures to reduce instances of femicide.
A separate committee, dubbed the Committee of Prevention, Support, Rescue, and Education of Gender Violence will be established, featuring 17 selected government officials and headed by Carmen González Magaz, the secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Family.
In conjunction with members of nonprofits and academia, the committee will work to instill preventative education surrounding gender-based violence and help design effective public policy to prevent it in institutions throughout the island.
On Twitter, the governor condemned all forms of violence against women and promised action despite the systemic sexism, inequality and discrimination that enable violence against women.
Toda violencia es repudiable, y tenemos que combatirla sin tregua. La violencia de género es un mal social, basado en ignorancia y actitudes que no pueden tener espacio ni tolerancia en el Puerto Rico que aspiramos. (1/3)— Gobernador Pierluisi (@GovPierluisi) January 24, 2021
“It is my duty and my commitment as governor to establish a STOP to gender violence,” Pierluisi wrote.