By: Héctor L. Rosario Pacheco
Dr. Luis Nieves Rosa, professor of Social Scienes at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, and Joel Ayala Martínez, a legal advisor at the Puerto Rico Commission on Civil Rights, gave a presentation at the Ramón Figueroa Chapel Amphitheater, Chardón Building, at UPRM on March 6. They discussed recent research on harassment and hate crimes based on sexual orientation in Puerto Rico.
Approximately 50 people gathered at the amphitheater to hear the presentation, which began at 9:30 a.m.
Dr. Nieves Rosa began the session explaining that its objective was to inform the people of the incidence of harassment and hate crimes based on sexual preference in Puerto Rico.
He noted that in the last few years the quantity of homosexuals that are being victims of harassment has increased; causing serious problems in society. Nieves Rosa noted that he had himself been a victim: someone wrote in his car that he was gay.
He began his presentation by defining some crucial terms: harassment, crime, heterosexism, and homophobia, among others.
Then he offered statistical evidence: more than 20 attacks and murder cases because of sexual orientation haven’t been processed even though there’s a law that requires their processing. To support this, Nieves Rosa presented statistics of a study that showed that between 2010 and 2011 there was an increase of murders because of sexual preference by 11 percent. He added that 73 percent of homicides in 2012 were made by black people, that 50 percent of the victims were transgender and that 48 percent of these victims identified themselves as gay.
Nieves Rosa explained that these results and statistics came from a questionnaire developed following the model of Gregory Herek in his book “Hate Crimes.”. This questionnaire was taken online by people who were 21 and over, but out of 145 people who took the questionnaire only 121 (83 percent) completed it, 35 were eliminated because they were either under 21 or heterosexual; leaving only 86 valid questionnaires.
These questionnaires showed that 93 percent of the participants were Puerto Ricans and that 50 percent were college students. The questionnaire emphasized in questions about the way they were treated, past experiences with acquaintances, employees and government agents because they were gay.
The questionnaire revealed that 55.8 percent of them were mocked or mistreated by friends, family or acquaintances while the other 54.7 percent were by strangers. Of these attackers 52.3 percent of them were males, 43 percent were women and 4.7 didn’t know the gender of the attacker. Most of them didn’t report this to the police, but the few that did didn’t feel okay with it because, according to them, the police was indifferent, hostile, insensitive, and inefficient, among other things.
These results lead Nieves Rosa to conclude that there are many people that have a hostile and inappropriate behavior toward members of the LGBTT community and it is necessary to take action.
The presentation ended with Ayala Martínez explaining what hate crimes, according to the existing law, are. He discussed what does the government does with these kinds of cases and discussed some past cases and mentioned how they were resolved. And when interviewed he said that if we knew of any case of crimes of hate that they should be reported to the police so they can do their job and help make a peaceful society.