Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro Pierluisi may have just been sworn in on January 2nd, but he’s not letting his freshness stop him from making major steps for the territory’s LGBTQ+ community. This past week, Governor Pierluisi issued a state of emergency for Puerto Rico in an effort to channel more resources toward combatting gender-based violence — which, Pierluisi said during a press conference, includes recognizing that trans women are a vulnerable population.
“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,” said Pierluisi in a statement.
The Governor’s executive order establishes a 17-person committee to address the gender-based violence issue; the committee is required to submit its first progress report in 45 days and to provide monthly updates from then on. The new policy also includes an educational campaign, a mobile app for victims to request help, and the creation and implementation of prevention programs.
Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a trans man, was murdered earlier this month, making him the seventh trans person to be murdered in Puerto Rico in the last year alone. The other six include Alexa Negron Luciano, Michelle Ramos Vargas, Yampi Méndez Arocho, Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, and Penélope Díaz Ramírez.
After the murder of Valentín, nonprofit LGBTQ+ organization Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and GLAAD released a statement in an attempt to call attention to the anti-trans violence. Gender-based violence has, unfortunately, been an issue in Puerto Rico for a long time, but has gotten even worse thanks to the coronavirus and the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Over 5,500 women were reportedly victims of domestic violence on the island in 2020, with at least 60 femicides occurring in the same year, according to the Gender Equality Observatory.