Governor Pierluisi Extends Emergency Declaration as Femicides Rise in Puerto Rico

Governor Pierluisi Extends Emergency Declaration as Femicides Rise in Puerto Rico

In the wake of Puerto Rico’s third consecutive year under a state of emergency due to gender-based violence, the island grapples with a concerning surge in femicides. According to El Nuevo Día, until November, the island witnessed 19 such cases, marking an uptick of four from each of the preceding two years that concluded with 15 fatalities each. 

Governor Pedro Pierluisi has taken action by signing Executive Order 2023-039, extending the state’s emergency declaration until December 31, 2024. This move aims to combat the multifaceted issue of gender-based violence, encompassing physical, psychological, sexual, and economic abuses that persist as a complex societal ill. 

In his address, Puerto Rico’s governor underscored the necessity of both preventive measures and robust victim support to uproot any manifestation of gender-related violence. Emphasizing the ongoing efforts initiated since the Emergency Declaration of January 25, 2021, he highlighted the commitment to eradicating violence through continuous initiatives and projects championed by the Committee for Prevention, Support, Rescue, and Education on Gender-Based Violence (Comité Pare). 

“We are facing various manifestations of physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence,” Pierluisi said in an official statement. “Therefore, it is necessary to work on both prevention and victim care to eradicate any expression of gender-based violence.” 

The extension of the emergency declaration seeks to secure fiscal resources within agency budgets and ensure the provision of vital services by governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations specializing in such matters. Furthermore, it reinforces the ongoing development and implementation of a comprehensive data collection system to facilitate an informed approach to tackling this pervasive issue.  

Integral to this strategy is the concerted effort to forge partnerships with municipal governments, aimed at broadening the network of services and bolstering support mechanisms for individuals navigating gender-based violence. Notably, collaboration with municipal police forces, integrated into the Center for Operations and Processing of Protection Orders (COPOP), stands as a crucial aspect of the operational plan to handle protection orders and deploy preventive patrols. 

The Executive Order also stresses the need for expanded tools and continuous training for public employees, equipping them with the protocols necessary for addressing and managing gender-based violence across its various forms. Additionally, it champions the persistence of awareness campaigns, educational programs, and the formulation of support strategies for secondary victims, particularly minors affected by femicides. 

Puerto Rico Continues to Fight Against Femicides

Since the declaration of a state of emergency in 2021, Puerto Rico has made significant legislative strides, established protocols, and implemented tangible measures to combat gender-based violence comprehensively. Among these legislative accomplishments are laws mandating the presence of legal representatives and advocates from the Women’s Advocate’s Office in hearings related to gender-based violence and recognizing economic violence as a form of domestic abuse. 

Efforts have been directed at educating and expanding specialized units within the Department of Justice, recruiting personnel to enhance investigative capabilities, and survivor interview processes. Additionally, a system centered on aiding survivor victims was revamped, and the processing of forensic data from safe kits held by the Forensic Sciences Institute has been initiated. 

The comprehensive approach undertaken by Puerto Rico underscores a concerted commitment to confront and address gender-based violence, with an overarching goal of fostering a safer and more supportive environment for survivors and affected communities. 

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