Specialized courts for gender violence cases expanded to Humacao region
By John McPhaul
Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez announced on Thursday the expansion of the Specialized Chamber Project in Cases of Gender Violence to the Judicial Region of Humacao.
With the inauguration of the new specialized chamber, the island judiciary reiterates its commitment to dealing with cases of domestic and sexual violence under a novel and recognized model that integrates specialized services for people affected by the social evil who come to court, the chief justice said.
“The reality of gender violence is raw and constant, so we cannot treat it as a fashionable issue or a problem exclusive to a certain sector of society,” Oronoz Rodríguez said in a written statement. “It is a problem that transcends the social and governmental spheres, so it is up to us to assume the part that touches us. From the judicial side, the victim must be positioned as the central figure deserving of legal protection. This specialized chamber is another forceful act of the Judiciary that reiterates that the gender approach in justice is not optional. It is a legal imperative to break down the barriers that have historically imprisoned the victims of this disastrous manifestation of inequality and violence.”
The chief justice spoke from the written statement during inaugural acts that included a tour of the specialized chamber in the Humacao Judicial Center.
The project has been in operation since 2007 and has been progressively implemented in eight judicial regions. In 2019, the chief justice ordered the expansion of the model to include attention to cases of sexual violence. Thus the first Specialized Chamber for Cases of Gender Violence was created in the Utuado Judicial Region, where requests for orders of protection for allegations of domestic violence, sexual violence and sexual abuse, child abuse and child sexual abuse, as well as related criminal cases, are handled under a specialized model.
Expansion of the project to Humacao establishes the first specialized chamber combined with the municipal chamber and the adjoining preliminary hearing chamber. Therein judges are integrated, as are court personnel trained in issues of gender violence, specialized calendars and separate service areas for each party in the case, as well as a children’s room for minors.
The specialized chamber serves as a link between the affected person and the services they may need, including legal advocacy, legal representation and the Puerto Rico Police. In the case of minors affected by sexual violence, Family Department staff are also integrated to facilitate any process involving that agency.