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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor urged to appoint women’s advocate

Arecibo District Sen. Elizabeth Rosa Vélez

By The Star Staff

“Gender violence should be a priority issue on the central government’s agenda. The lack of an official appointment to the position of the Office of the Women’s Advocate delays the work plan that aims, among other things, to preserve lives.”

With these words, Arecibo District Sen. Elizabeth Rosa Vélez urged Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Wednesday to appoint a person to the position.

“It is imperative, necessary, and urgent that the governor appoint a person to fill the position of Women’s Advocate,” Rosa Vélez said. “This is imperative to advance a work agenda that puts in place mechanisms to minimize and eradicate gender violence. The uncertainty of who is responsible for assuming this office gives the impression that it is not a priority for the government.”

“Two months ago, the women’s advocate resigned, and the position is filled on an interim basis, while the media reports news daily where women victims of violence, among others, are murdered.”

The Office of the Women’s Advocate is responsible for strengthening and enforcing public policies that guarantee women’s human rights. It is also responsible for promoting equity and eliminating all manifestations of discrimination and violence against women, among other obligations.

Statistics show that the Puerto Rico Police Bureau reported 2,786 incidents of domestic violence on the island from January to June of this year -- about four times more than the domestic violence statistics for the same period in 2021.

It was during that same year that the government declared a state of emergency in the face of an increase in deaths associated with gender violence.

“Despite the decree implemented by the governor, the country is witnessing a number of murders and victims of this type of violence, so much so that the governor extended the decree until 2023,” Rosa Vélez said. “However, the lack of a proper advocate calls into question whether the public policies and actions of the government to eradicate violence are consistent. There is no point in extending a decree if the main figure to guarantee compliance with public policies and measures is vacant.”

The senator, who is a social worker, recognized the need to establish more rigorous measures to deal with cases of gender violence on the island. She said she is willing to contribute, through her role in the Senate, with legislation that strengthens and offers greater tools to the government to tackle the wave of violence that she described as “engulfing the island.”

The resignation of the former women’s advocate, Lersy Boria Vizcarrondo, was effective Aug. 5. Since then, Madeline Bermúdez has held the position on an interim basis.

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