Thousands in Puerto Rico have begged the government to step up and address the gender violence epidemic on the island. On Sunday, January 24, officials finally did something. The new Governor of the island, Pedro Pierluisi, signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency that will provide resources to combat gender violence.
In a statement, Pierluisi said, “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,” a problem that has plagued the small island for years with dozens of people killed over the years and dozens of organizations asking for help with little to no response until now.
“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 put a stop to gender violence, and for these purposes, I have declared a state of emergency,” Pierluisi added.
The program director for Taller Salud, a nonprofit organization that helps women in PR deal with gender violence, told ABC News that though no one wishes the crisis would reach this point, it was a long time coming and much needed.
According to an analysis done from GEN and Type investigations, domestic violence skyrocketed after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. In 2018, it was 1.7 per 100,000 women, when in 2017, it was 1.0 for every 100,000 women.
In 2020, there were 60 murders linked to gender violence, according to Puerto Rico’s Gender Equality Observatory, showing a 62% increase since 2019. Law enforcement in Puerto Rico also reported that 5,517 women were domestic violence victims in 2020.
It gets worse, though. In the first three weeks of 2021, two transgender people have died and are considered gender-based murders by activists.
How will this be done?
Part of the order is to create a mobile app for victims to request help without making it known to their assailants. There will be a committee specialized in providing education, support, and rescue for people victims of gender violence. It will be composed of 17 members, 3 of which already are part of organizations that combat gender violence in PR.
“In order to eradicate gender-based violence, we have to make concerted efforts between the state and society where in addition to an inclusive plan, an educational approach also exists to teach our boys and girls that every human being must be respected, as well as empowering our future generations so we can eradicate this evil,” Pierluisi said.
The current state of emergency will be in effect until June 30, 2022. For the sake of women and transgender people in Puerto Rico, the state of emergency should be an awakening to the island’s citizens and a guarantee that eyes are watching, and there will be consequences.