State of emergency declared in Puerto Rico due to gender-based violence

The Puerto Rican government responded this weekend to the plea of thousands who have asked the island’s leaders to address the ongoing crisis of gender violence.

“Gender violence is a social evil, based on ignorance and attitudes that cannot have space or tolerance in the Puerto Rico that we aspire to,” Pierluisi said in a news release. “For too long, vulnerable victims have suffered the consequences of systematic machismo, inequity, discrimination, lack of education, lack of guidance and above all, lack of action. It is my duty and my commitment as governor to establish a STOP to gender violence, and for these purposes I have declared a state of emergency.”

As cases of gender-based killings continued to rise, advocacy groups in the island had been demanding concrete action from the government to address the crisis.

After Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico in 2017, domestic violence rose substantially, according to an analysis from GEN and Type Investigations. The analysis found that in 2018, the intimate partner murder rate in Puerto Rico rose to 1.7 per 100,000 women, up from 0.77 per 100,000 in 2017.

Meanwhile, the rate of gender violence in general is still rising. Last year, a total of 60 indirect and direct murders linked to gender violence were reported in the island, according to Puerto Rico’s Gender Equality Observatory, a figure that represents an increase of 62% from 2019.

So far, Puerto Ricans have already mourned the loss of a transgender man and a young woman in the first three weeks of 2021. Both cases are being considered as gender-based murders by advocacy groups.

Gonzalez said this state of emergency “can’t stay in a paper.” As a person who works directly with victims, she said it’s crucial to see the plans on the executive order come to life. “A work plan without accountability is nothing,” she said.