Puerto Rico: A Cry for Justice, No More Violence Against Women

This year in Puerto Rico, 15 women (two more cases are under investigation) have been murdered by their partners or ex partners. In the context of a population of almost 4 million people, the Caribbean country has one of the highest rates in the world of women murdered by their partners, spouses, ex partners or ex spouses.*

These women are not simple numbers; they are friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, colleagues, neighbors.

Pervasive violence

"Verbal, Sexual or Institutional: All are Forms of Violence."

"Verbal, Sexual or Institutional: All are Forms of Violence."

Violence against women has become pervasive. On the state level, there are a string of examples. The pioneering Law against Domestic Violence (Law 54 of 1989 [es]) has come under attack by recent court decisions that could leave many women without the special protections this law offers.

Recently, two high ranking police officers were accused of domestic violence against their spouses. In a student strike at the University of Puerto Rico, police officers were filmed sexually harassing female protesters [es].

The pro-statehood governor Luis Fortuño, has promoted the controversial campaign ‘Promise Keepers‘, a program criticized for its religious and conservative perspective. The government recently revised the guides for establishing child pensions without considering that 58% of the heads of households are women who live under the poverty line [es], according to the Census.**

The home has become one of the most dangerous places for women in Puerto Rico. The chilling statistics are evidence of this. But in the midst of such desolation, women are also struggling and resisting.

The feminist coalition Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres de Puerto Rico [es] has organized public demonstrations, events, and artistic performances to raise awareness on violence against women. The Movimiento is formed by organizations and individuals involved in an array of social justice issues, against sexism, racism, homophobia, poverty, and xenophobia.


Feminist bloggers have also continued their activism through their blogs and social media networks. Although published a while ago, we include excerpts of some of their posts that formed part of the Second Blogging Event: No More Violence Against Women [es], coordinated by Verónica RTNahomi Galindo [es] and Global Voices, Puerto Rico. This edition was dedicated to the topic of gender, sexism and the media.

Professor Nereida Rodríguez advocates for using online platforms [es]s for fostering an education focused on justice and equality:

Este proceso puede generarse a través de comunidades de aprendices virtuales que compartan, dialoguen, eduquen y comuniquen por medio de una bitácora electrónica (blog o weblog), periódicos y radio digital, o a través de redes sociales para mantener informados y concienciar a la ciudadanía a favor de la mujer y en contra de la violencia.

This process can be generated through virtual communities of learners to share, discuss, educate and communicate via an electronic log (blog or weblog),newspapers and digital radio, or through social networks to keep citizens informed and aware of violence against women.

María del Mar Vázquez Rodríguez reflects on the power of advertising [es]:

Como consecuencia de la exposición continua a la publicidad sexista, tenemos individuos, hombres y mujeres programados con prejuicios e ideas que funcionan como códigos de conducta social, a los que respondemos más por condicionamiento que por instinto genuino. Sin embargo, nos han convencido de que “nacemos” con dichas características y que éstas son inherentes y “naturales”. Un simple hecho biológico, como lo es el sexo al cual pertenecemos, se convierte en todo un carnaval social de suposiciones sobre el carácter de cada cual.

As a result of continuous exposure to sexist advertising, we have individuals, men and women, programmed with prejudices and ideas that serve as codes of social conduct, to which we respond more due to socialization than instincts. However, we are convinced that we are “born” with these characteristics and they are inherent and “natural.” A simple biological fact, like the sex to which we belong, turns into a carnival of social assumptions about the nature of everyone.

Kayla S. criticizes [es] the media's double standards:

Es cierto que nos conmueve ver en las noticias la cobertura de un acto violento contra la mujer. Nos indigna. Pero por otro lado, ¿cómo puede eso competir con la perpetuidad que ofrecen los medios de comunicación a la violencia física, emocional, mental y sexual contra la mujer?  Para que los medios sean de apoyo al movimiento que hoy nos une en esta jornada de palabras, tienen que comenzar a depurar  los programas que presentan al público televidente. Deben frenar la violencia mediática.

It is true that we are moved when we see the news coverage of a violent act against a woman. We are outraged. But on the other hand, how can that compete with how the media also perpetuates physical, emotional, mental and sexual violence against women? In order for the media to fully support the movement that today binds us in this journey of words, they have to start rethinking their programs. They should stop media violence.

Nahomi Galindo reflects [es] on how the Telecommunications Regulatory Board of Puerto Rico censored one of Calle 13's songs, while ignoring the many instances of racism, sexism and homophobia in the media:

Ojalá y estuviese más alerta a como se reproducen, se refuerzan, y se representan las desigualdades de género, y más aún, la violencia machista. Algunas personas me dirán que le estoy pidiendo peras al olmo. Pero se trata precisamente de eso; de no conformarnos; de no resignarnos, de exigir peras; aunque nosotr@s mismos tengamos que sembrarlas para cosecharlas.

I hope they were more focused on how gender inequalities, and even more, sexist violence, are reproduced, reinforced, and represented. Some people tell me I'm asking the impossible. But it is precisely about that, we should be conformists,  resign ourselves from requiring the impossible, even when we have to plant the seeds to be able to harvest them.

Verónica Rivera Torres and Aníbal Rosario Lebrón [es] analyze the importance of language and of using more powerful concepts to describe violence against women:

[…} Feminicido no sólo incluye los asesinatos, las violaciones y los maltratos de las mujeres por parte de los hombres, sino que incluye también como actor de la violencia al Estado que maltrata a las mujeres a través de lo que se conoce como la violencia institucional. El término de feminicido ha sido una aportación latinoamericana a la lucha en contra de la violencia machista. Fue propulsado por la feminista mexicana Marcela Lagarde y ha sido adoptado ya por varios movimientos feminista como los de Nicaragua, Perú, Guatemala y Colombia.

[…] Femicide not only includes murder, rape and abuse of women perpetrated by men, it also includes the State as an entity that mistreats women through what is called institutional violence. The term femicide has been a Latin American contribution to the fight against machista violence. It was proposed by the Mexican feminist Marcela Lagarde and it has already been adopted by many feminist movements in Nicaragua, Perú, Guatemala and Colombia.

The organizers also recognized the groundbreaking work of the many editors and reporters in Puerto Rico dedicated to foster justice and equality through journalism. For a complete list of the entries submitted to the Second Blogging Event: No More Violence Against Women please read here [es].

* For a complete study on global statistics of domestic violence see Centro Reina Sofia's research [es].

** This multi-level analysis was taken from the feminist scholar and social worker Diana Valle Ferrer presented in a conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico (full disclosure: Valle Ferrer is the author's mother).

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