Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Scandal as Puerto Rican politicians ignore trans murders, propose ate crimes reversal

By Paul Canning

Puerto Rico appears to be going through a wave of viscous murders of transgender people.

The US territory has had a hate crime law since 2002 covering crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but activists say that authorities are not using it.

Now Puerto Rican politicians in response to the murders, want to eliminate LGBT-specific protections from the hate crimes law.

The Puerto Rico Senate late last month approved a provision that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity and religion from the current criminal code statute — but leave in political status, age and disability. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the amended penal code during a special legislative session.

Representative Héctor Ferrer, Sen. Eduardo Bhatia and LGBT and Dominican activists blasted the proposed provisions:

“It’s an outrage and now we’re calling upon the House to restore this to where it should be,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“To eliminate these groups as protected categories is to invite the commission of hate crimes in Puerto Rico,” said Ferrer. “It is a setback in the country’s public policy.”

At least six transgender people have been murdered in Puerto Rico in the last 12 months — but none have been recorded as hate crimes.

According to Sophia Isabel Marro Cruz, the spokeswoman for Transexuales y Transgeneros en Marcha (Transexuals and Transgenders On The Move):

“None of these cases have been considered by the State as hate crimes despite offenders even admitting that their motivation was the ‘homosexual panic’. This shows an extreme level of homophobia and transphobia.”

The Justice Department noted a lack of prosecution under the island’s hate crimes law in damning report on the Puerto Rico Police Department it issued in September.

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s own reports indicate that prosecutors have yet to convict anyone of a bias-motive crime on the island.
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