Gender Violence and Transphobia Infuriate Puerto Rico

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Fifteen missing women and six dead transgender women are the balance of 2020 in Puerto Rico.

And if that figure doesn’t alarm you, nothing can.

Over the past few months if not years Latin American women have been crying out for violence at an overwhelmingly high rate compared to the rest of the world.

Yet what Puerto Rico has experienced in recent months is unprecedented.

The murder of Michelle Ramos Vargas in San German last Wednesday was the latest in a growing list of disturbing alleged hate crimes against the island’s transgender community.

Neulisa “Alexa” Ruiz Luciano, Penélope Días Ramírez, Angélica Marie “Yampi” Méndez Arocho, Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Peláez are the other women who have died so far in 2020. Of those deaths, only two have been established as the product of a hate crime.

Human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano condemned the killing and said trans people in the U.S. territory are being hunted, ABC News reported.

“Enough of so much hate,” he said in a statement. “Trans people are as human as everyone else and deserve to live in peace, equality, and freedom.”

Similarly, the Department of Public Safety (DSP) noted 29 femicides have been reported so far this year, six of which are directly attributed to domestic violence, EFE reported.

Also, to date, at least 16 women are still missing.

The president of the Association of Social Work Professionals of Puerto Rico, Mabel Lopez, told Efe that the forced confinement caused many abuse cases in households that have not come to light.

“It is evident that the reports could not be made because the people were confined,” Lopez said, stressing that there is a problem with statistics in Puerto Rico that makes it challenging to know the real numbers.

Yadira Pizarro, director of Escape an institution dedicated to preventing child abuse and family violence assured Efe that the cases of aggressions in these months have grown, despite what authorities have defended.

However, residents, activists, organizations, and even mayors have called for a state of emergency for gender violence on the island. This week, dozens of people took to the streets in Viejo San Juan to denounce the situation and support the need to declare a national emergency.

“Neither Rosimar nor any other, no more violence against women! The Government of Puerto Rico has to put its ear to the ground and declare a state of emergency now to raise awareness and urgent action in the face of this social tragedy,” Ricky Martin said on Twitter.

“We are being violated, we are being hunted down, and we are being killed. There is no plan to stop these hate crimes; no state of emergency has been declared for gender violence; there is nothing,” agreed Serrano also on Twitter.

For its part, the organization Hogar Nueva Mujer resumed its “No Calles” campaign to join in the denunciations.

“Gender violence continues to ravage Puerto Rico, and all of us must take action by denouncing it and educating our communities to eradicate it. This year Hogar Nueva Mujer returns with the ‘No Calles’ campaign during October, through which we will be educating about the different types of violence against women,” said the organization’s executive director, Vilmarie Rivera Sierra.