The governor of Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency on Sunday in response to the high rate of violence against women and transgender individuals.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi, who took office earlier this month, issued an executive order to combat the high rates of gender-based violence in the territory. In addition to declaring the state of emergency, the order establishes several other mechanisms to respond to the issue, including the appointment of a Compliance Officer to monitor the implementation of the order, the Committee on the Prevention, Support, Rescue and Education of Gender Violence (PARE Committee), and a mobile phone application. According to a press release from the governor’s office, the phone app will allow victims of gender-based violence to request emergency help and hide the messages so that the victim’s aggressor will not see them.
In the order Pierluisi stated:
Gender violence is a social evil, based on ignorance and attitudes that cannot have space or tolerance in the Puerto Rico we aspire to. For too long vulnerable victims have suffered the consequences of systematic machismo, inequality, 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 it is that I have declared a state of emergency.
The governor also mentioned the need for “an educational approach” to combat the problem, which he said has “permeated our society for a long time.” The claim that gender violence is a systemic and long-time issue is backed by numerous reports by local groups. One such report, released by Kilometer 0 in 2019, states that in Puerto Rico one femicide takes place every week. This equates to three femicides for every 100,000 women, which is considered a high rate. The report also notes that undereducated women “have femicide rates almost 5 times higher than other women in their age group, and women between the ages of 25-34 are at greater risk. Femicides occur mainly in the women’s homes or in the homes of their family members, and 58% of the women killed are murdered with firearms.”
Other reports have been released by the Observatory of Gender Equality, another local rights organization, the American Civil Liberties Union and Puerto Rico’s police department.
The PARE Committee will publish a progress report within 45 days of its first meeting, followed by monthly reports for the duration of the state of emergency, which will last until at least June 2022.