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House panel greenlights bill that would classify femicides, transfeminicides as first-degree murder


By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star


The Women’s Affairs Committee of the island House of Representatives on Tuesday passed Senate Bills (SB) 130 and 358, which would, respectively, constitute femicides and transfeminicides as first-degree murder and make it mandatory that a prosecutor be present at any Law 54 hearing on probable cause for arrest.


SB 130, penned by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Migdalia González Arroyo, now goes to the House Floor as it obtained seven votes in favor, one vote against and two abstentions.


During the markup session for SB 130, Women’s Affairs Committee Chairwoman Jocelyne Rodríguez Negrón said the bill seeks to amend Article 93 of the 2014 Penal Code for the purpose of defining femicides and transfeminicides as first-degree murder.


Rodríguez Negrón, along with PDP legislators Estrella Martínez, Sol Higgins Cuadrado, Héctor Ferrer Santiago, Lydia Méndez Silva and José “Conny” Varela, voted in favor of SB 130, as did Citizens Victory Movement Rep. Mariana Nogales Molinelli.


However, New Progressive Party Reps. Lourdes Ramos and Yashira Lebrón both abstained from voting, while Dignity Project Rep. Lisie Burgos Muñiz voted against the bill.


Rodríguez Negrón said the bill also aims to amend Sections 2 and 3 of Act 157 of 2020 to “establish a series of circumstances in which the death of a woman is caused by domestic violence, sexual abuse and previous conduct of the perpetrator toward the victim.”


“Likewise, specific circumstances are established when the death of a person whose real or perceived gender identity or expression does not correspond to the one assigned at birth is considered transfeminicide,” Rodríguez Negrón said.


Under SB 130, the Department of Justice and the Institute of Statistics, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the Institute of Forensic Sciences, would establish a system for the compilation and management of statistical data on cases of femicides and transfeminicides as defined in Article 93 of the Penal Code of Puerto Rico.


Rodríguez Negrón said SB 130 “was endorsed by the Department of Justice, the Women’s Attorney Office, and the Puerto Rico Bar Association.”


Meanwhile, SB 358, also penned by González Arroyo, also passed to the House Floor as it obtained nine votes in favor and two abstentions.


“This measure is of great importance given the fact that we have seen in Puerto Rico that gender violence victims often do not have all the adequate tools to explain their case in court and to ensure that, at such an initial stage as the probable cause hearing, the court makes such a determination [to not find cause],” Rodríguez Negrón said. “Elements such as fear, nervousness and lack of knowledge about the judicial process can cause the victim to not adequately explain the particular circumstances of the facts that constitute gender violence.”


The Women’s Affair Committee chairwoman referred to the Andrea Ruiz Costas case without mentioning her name.


“This was recently experienced in Puerto Rico, specifically, in a well known case where a court did not issue a protection order and did not determine a cause for arrest, and the victim was murdered by her own violator,” she said. “It is important that a prosecutor is always allocated [to a possible victim] in these Act 54 hearings to ensure that the evidence is adequately presented for the magistrate’s consideration.”

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