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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Coalition: Arming victims of gender violence puts them further at risk

Dr. Irma Lugo Nazario, coordinator of the Gender Equity Observatory

By The Star Staff

The Gender Equity Observatory (OEG by its Spanish initials) rejects the initiatives that would have survivors of domestic violence acquire firearms to protect themselves from their aggressors while reiterating that education and prevention are the tools to combat gender violence in Puerto Rico.

“It is extremely irresponsible and an unforgivable mistake that the president of CODEPOLA (Corporation for the Defense of the Puerto Rico Weapons License Holder), an organization that promulgates the use of weapons in the country, offered in the past few days, as the only solution, that women survivors of domestic violence should arm themselves,” OEG analyst Dr. Debora Upegui-Hernández said. “Studies show that having a weapon in the house or a woman having a weapon puts her at greater risk of being murdered with that same weapon.”

She added that the CODEPOLA recommendation comes at a time when the number of femicides so far this year -- 62 -- has surpassed the 53 that occurred in 2021, according to the OEG monthly report.

The researcher insisted that the use of weapons increases lethality and questioned why they are not talking about how to reduce the availability and carrying of firearms and, on the contrary, there are efforts to make the Weapons Law more flexible.

“Ninety-five percent of the femicides in our data that remain under investigation in 2022 were carried out with firearms,” she said, citing the experience in South Africa, where access to firearms was reduced and, in turn, murders decreased.

The report on femicides, disappearances and gender violence, with updated information through Oct. 31, reveals that, out of 62 femicides, 14 intimate murders (murders of women perpetrated by partners or ex-partners) have occurred, while 38 are under investigation or lacking information. The OEG, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, produces its report based on the model Latin American protocol for the investigation of gender-based violence against women (femicides/feminicides) from the Regional Office for Central America of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women.

Meanwhile, since the January 2021 declaration of a state of emergency due to the rise in gender violence on the island, Upegui-Hernández and OEG Coordinator Dr. Irma Lugo Nazario agreed that the Puerto Rico government has not yet promoted initiatives and concrete actions aimed at prevention and education to combat gender violence.

“We insist on education as a prevention tool,” Lugo Nazario said. “The gender perspective in education is an important tool and, at the same time, it is a methodological tool for multidisciplinary analysis in the search for comprehensive responses to the different manifestations of violence in society, one of the main [tools] in the work against gender violence.”

Lugo Nazario noted that the new administrative memo of the Department of Education, dated Oct. 26, does not comply with the work done by the Committee for Gender Violence Prevention, Support, Rescue and Education, or PARE by its Spanish acronym.

“The crisis of gender violence and rise in femicides that we are experiencing requires prevention strategies at multiple levels,” Upegui-Hernández added. “It must be addressed as a public health problem and cannot be tackled only with individual solutions.”

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