Monday, April 4, 2011

Puerto Rico, adultery, and Ley 54

Puerto Rico’s Law for the Prevention and Intervention of Domestic Violence (also known as Ley 54) has been in the books since 1989. A recent court decision pertaining to Ley 54 has led to a firestorm of controversy and reignited the debate on domestic violence on the island.

Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that found that Ley 54 does not apply to couples in an adulterous relationship. Judge Erick Kolthoff Caraballo acknowledged that domestic violence is a “serious problem” yet in his verdict claimed that the law’s intent was to protect family unity and relationships out of marriage fall outside of this aim. For instance, the commonwealth’s high court concluded that Ley 54’s use of the term “consensual relationships” excludes adulterous couples.

Global Voices mentioned the harsh criticism to Kolthoff’s decision in an article first published yesterday. One blogger opined that the ruling “betrays the intention of the law and sends an incorrect and twisted message about its applicability” while another believes that the decision s an affront to female victims of domestic violence. (It’s worth noting that a third blogger is cited for trying to “dispel” several conclusions reached by critics of the ruling).

The verdict has caused some legislators to scramble and try to pass a bill that would amend Ley 54 to include couples regardless of their civil status. Victims of domestic violence “should feel like they have the right to aspire for a life of peace, respect, and protection from the state” irrespective of their civil status, said Puerto Rican House of Representatives chief Jenniffer González yesterday. Nevertheless, she rejected a push from groups like Puerto Rico Para Todos (Puerto Rico for All) to include same-sex couples in the changes to Ley 54.

Gov. Luis Fortuño reportedly nominated Kolthoff to the Puerto Rican high court though Fortuño said that he would support modifying Ley 54 to include protection for adulterous couples. Yet Fortuño’s support for the amendment has not extended to legalizing adultery, which is a crime under the Puerto Rican Penal Code.

Online Sources- Global Voices, El Nuevo Dia, Primera Hora,, Ley Juris

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