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This map illustrates the landscape of femicide across Latin America and the Caribbean, showing the region's diverse efforts in implementing policies to combat violence against women. Despite having the right policies in place, many countries see their femicide rates stay the same, or even increase.

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Law criminalizing femicide ({{ currentCountry?.stats?.femicideLawYear }})
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No Law criminalizing femicide
Is femicide included in the penal code?
Law against domestic violence
Is domestic violence included in the penal code?
No Law against domestic violence
Is domestic violence included in the penal code?
Public database on femicide
Does the government publish up-to-date data on femicides?
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restraining orders, child support, etc.
No Protective measures
restraining orders, child support, etc.
Ratified CEDAW
International treaty to eliminate violence against women (1979)
No Ratified CEDAW
International treaty to eliminate violence against women (1979)
Ratified Belém do Pará
Regional treaty to eliminate violence against women (1994)
No Ratified Belém do Pará
Regional treaty to eliminate violence against women (1994)
Conducted survey on violence against women since 2016
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No survey conducted on violence against women since 2016
Did the government conduct a survey on violence against women in recent years?
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2021 femicide rate
per 100,000 women (2021)
Slight Decrease
No Change
Slight Increase
Sharp Increase
Sharp Decrease
No Data Available
Change in femicide rate from 2017 to 2021
Puerto Rico
Femicides Are On the Rise in Puerto Rico. Are Guns the Answer?
To deter gender-based violence, a 2020 law made it easier to obtain guns, but some say the measure misses the mark.
Read this story in
Femicides Are On the Rise in Puerto Rico. Are Guns the Answer?

MAYAGÜEZ, PUERTO RICO — Raquel Delgado Valentín is an energetic woman who talks fast and shows great determination. She is an adherent of feminist self-defense and, as a social worker, also believes in collective care. She has been carrying a gun since 2005 because she believes that, as a woman, she is more vulnerable to acts of aggression and violence.

“I need to protect myself because I know the state won’t protect me. I’ve seen it tons of times, and the way in which I feel safe is by carrying a firearm,” she says. For 15 years, Delgado worked directly with those who have experienced gender-based violence in Puerto Rico, where, on average, over 600 cases of domestic violence are reported each month, according to figures compiled this year by the Puerto Rico Police Bureau.

There are approximately 35,000 women who, like Delgado, have a license to carry a gun in public. Of those licenses, 436 were issued as part of the protection measures for people who have experienced domestic violence and stalking, as established in Article 2.14 of the Puerto Rico Weapons Act of 2020, which allows them to obtain a gun license through an expedited process and at no cost. The license expires after 90 days, but the term can be extended through a regular gun license request. Those who provide services to people experiencing gender-based violence, however, have doubts about the effectiveness of this measure.

“When there is a firearm in a situation involving domestic violence, lethality increases,” says Coraly León Morales, president of Red Nacional de Albergues de Violencia de Género, a network of emergency shelters for those who have experienced gender violence. “That the gun was given to a survivor doesn’t necessarily mean the survivor is the one who will use it.”

León Morales thinks this approach is a way of leaving the safety of women in their own hands while also increasing the deadliness of an act of aggression.

As a social worker, Delgado recognizes carrying a gun is not the solution in itself. Even if a woman obtains a gun license for free, costs are involved in purchasing a firearm and taking courses on how to properly operate it, as well as other time-consuming procedures. “A gun requires a huge number of different types of support that the survivor will need in order to correctly use that pistol,” she says.

Firearm prices vary as widely as available styles do. Based on advertisements and online stores serving the region, the cost can range from 300 United States dollars to over 1,000 dollars. By contrast, the minimum hourly wage in Puerto Rico is 9.50 dollars.

On the other hand, Madeline Bermúdez Sanabria, director of the Women’s Advocate Office, an interstate agency that operates 24 hours a day to offer services and promote and inspect public policy that guarantees women’s rights, has been one of the voices in favor of the measure since it was proposed. In her opinion, obtaining a firearm puts women on an equal footing with their aggressors.

She believes that providing free firearm licenses can help women access an extra means of protection in emergencies.. “We supported making it free of charge and possible for them to obtain the license if that’s what they want,” Bermúdez says.

As more licenses are issued, more women are dying from gunshot wounds

The number of issued licenses has shot up since the Puerto Rico Weapons Act of 2020 went into effect. Between June 2020 and October this year, more than 113,000 new licenses and 70,544 renewals were issued, according to reports from the Puerto Rico Police Bureau’s Firearms Regulation and Licensing Office, the authority responsible for issuing gun licenses. In 2017, the last year before the gun law went into effect for which official data is available to the public, 1,222 new licenses were issued.

Also, while the rates of intimate femicide — femicides perpetrated by intimate partners, former partners or someone known to the woman — decreased in the two years following the Puerto Rico Weapon’s Act, 2023 has seen an increase. And firearms have consistently been the main method for committing them. In 2018, a total of 23 intimate femicides were committed in Puerto Rico, according to a report published by Proyecto Matria and Kilómetro 0, two organizations that focus on equity and human rights. In 2020, the year the firearm law went into effect, the Gender Equity Observatory, a coalition of feminist and human rights organizations that monitors and analyzes gender-based violence in Puerto Rico, registered 18 intimate femicides, compared to 15 in 2021 and another 15 in 2022.

Between January and November 14 this year, there were 19 intimate femicides in Puerto Rico, 16 of which were by gunshot, according to statistics analyzed by the Gender Equity Observatory. In 13 of these cases, the perpetrator had a gun license.

Bermúdez, from the Women’s Advocate Office, thinks the law should be revisited because the processes for obtaining a firearm are too loose.

“The statistics are still proving us right. It is women who are dying at the hands of men who have licenses to carry firearms,” she says. “It is an aspect that we are concerned about … [and] that we have been working on. We have already been in talks with some legislators and groups about this situation.”

Jocelyne Rodríguez Negrón, president of the Commission for Women’s Affairs in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, supports carrying a gun as an additional resource in conjunction with other protective services for people experiencing violence because, she says, current measures have not been sufficient. She adds that the legislature is not discussing the permit issue at this time, but is seeking further protections for women at risk.

When the government let people who experience violent situations to access firearms, “the message we are sending is that we have to arm all [women] to stop violence,” says Lisdel Flores Barger, executive director of Hogar Ruth, a women’s shelter. She, León Morales and Delgado all agree that to treat violence at its source, it is necessary to implement prevention strategies and provide education that considers gender and more spaces for emotional support.

“We know there is a deeper root,” Delgado says. “We cannot think that giving a survivor a license and a .40 caliber is going to fix her life because that’s not necessarily the case.”

On average, 372 women were murdered every month in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021.

Since this story has been published, X women have been murdered in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Source: Estimate using 2021 data from CEPALSTAT; Puerto Rico Gender Equity Observatory

Coraly Cruz Mejías

Senior Reporter

Coraly Cruz Mejías is a Global Press Journal senior reporter based in Puerto Rico. Born and raised in Juana Diaz, she earned a master’s degree in the history of Puerto Rico and Caribbean from the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico. She specializes in environmental reporting.

Coraly Cruz Mejías es reportera de Global Press Journal, establecida en Puerto Rico. Nacida y criada en Juana Díaz, obtuvo una maestría en historia de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, del Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico. Se especializa en escribir sobre el medio ambiente.

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