After more than two years of struggle, Puerto Rican feminists have won an important victory. Governor Pedro Pierluisi has finally declared a state of emergency for gender-based violence.
Our partner, Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, has been at the head of the movement and its victory. In November 2018, Colectiva launched the demand for a state of emergency in front of the Frotaleza — the Puerto Rican governor’s mansion in downtown San Juan. They have carried those demands through every protest and march, including the #RickyRenuncia rebellion in July 2019 that took down Ricardo Rosselló.
Gender-based violence is a crisis on the archipelago. According to a 2019 study by Proyecto Matria and Kilometro Cero, one woman is killed every seven days in Puerto Rico. Along with the Dominican Republic and Peru, Puerto Rico has one of the highest rates of femicides in the Americas. Yet it has taken three successive governors before one finally declared a state of emergency.
With this victory, the government has committed to making wide-ranging investments to address the crisis. The government will create a mobile app to support violence survivors to request assistance and report aggressors to emergency services. Resources will be spent to check in with women who have filed restraining orders. Media campaigns will educate the public about gender violence. And all these measures will be inclusive of LGBTQ+ communities.
Firm, Consistent, vulnerable, and brave
In a statement Colectiva released after the governor’s announcement, they emphasize the role of feminist struggle in the victory:
“We have been firm, because our claim is fair, we have been consistent because we know that this fight deserves it, we have known ourselves vulnerable because each comrade who loses her life deepens the wound, but we have known ourselves to be brave.”
But the struggle is far from over. Feminists are not just focusing on murder and domestic violence. Colectiva defines gender-based violence to include all the ways in which individual and social violence occurs through gender. This includes colonialism, austerity and medical violence too.
In a recent episode of the “When We Fight, We Win” podcast, lawyer and activist Zoán Tanís Dávila Roldán described Colectiva’s long-term vision:
“There’s so much we can advance with public policy. But we also wanted to advance…this collective power… If we really want all the women to be safe and secure, if we really want a more just and safe society, we have to abolish all the systems of oppression.”
Grassroots International joins Colectiva Feminista and all grassroots feminists in celebrating this victory, acknowledging the gendered violence that continues, and staying on the journey to full liberation.
Full Podcast Episode with Colectiva Feminista