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Puerto Rico Declares State of Emergency to Combat Trans Violence

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi Declares State of Emergency to Combat Trans Violence

The governor has zero tolerance for gender violence in the island territory.

The governor of Puerto Rico took decisive action this week by declaring a state of emergency to combat violence committed against the transgender community. Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi signed an executive order Sunday in response to the surge in violent killings of transgender people in the U.S. territory. The order provides specific mechanisms to combat the violence while also working to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for the trans community across Puerto Rican society.

"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," Pierluisi said in a statement announcing the executive order. "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 establish a STOP to gender violence and for these purposes I have declared a state of emergency."

Violence against the transgender community has escalated in recent years. 2020 was the most dangerous ever in the United States and Puerto Rico, with 44 known trans people violently killed at the hands of another. The island territory already suffered its first trans murder this year, when the body of Samuel Edmund Damian, a Latinx transgender man, was dumped in the middle of a dimly lit highway early on the morning of January 9. His lifeless body, riddled with bullets, was run over by an unsuspecting driver, who stopped and reported the discovery to police. Damian was the seventh known trans killing in a year for the island but these statistics are frequently underreported.

Mane killings have been brutal with hangings as well as the remains of two trans women found charred inside a burned-out car.

"Samuel did not deserve to die --none of the LGBTQ people who have been killed in Puerto Rico or anywhere else deserved to have their lives cut short," Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the transgender justice initiative at Human Rights Campaign, said at the time. "We must take action now and demand that this violence end."

Peirluisi's actions Sunday showed he not only agreed with Cooper's sentiments, but was advancing the fight on multiple fronts. His order calls for the creation of a special committee of experts to review the crisis and make recommendations, partnering with the private sector to ensure a more inclusive and affirming workplace for trans men and women, and educating children about tolerance and identity.

"To eradicate gender violence we have to make concerted efforts between the state and society in which, in addition to a comprehensive plan, there is an educational approach to teach our children that every human being has to be respected, as well as empower to our next generations to eradicate this evil," Pierluisi observed.

RELATED | Former Puerto Rico Governor Stripped Away LGBTQ+ Protections

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