puerto_ricoThe House of Representatives in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is likely to vote this week on an amendment to the island’s penal code that would strip sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression from the 2004 hate crimes statute, according to Michael Lavers of EDGE Boston.

The proposed changes, approved last week by the Puerto Rican Senate, would also eliminate hate crimes protections for people victimized on the basis of religious beliefs and ethnicity. Leaders of Puerto Rico’s LGBT and Dominican communities held a joint press conference yesterday to criticize the legislation, which is being considered in an extraordinary session convened by Governor Luis Fortuño.

According to Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, LGBT-identified Puerto Ricans face violence on an “epidemic” scale. In July, Serrano reported that twenty LGBT people have been murdered in Puerto Rico since January of 2010. The 2004 penal code requires the authorities to investigate whether the killings were motivated by the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity; however, Lavers writes that the Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s own reports reveal that “prosecutors have yet to convict anyone of a bias-motive crime on the island.”

Puerto Rico joins a growing list of places around the world where LGBTs face orchestrated legislative bullying, including Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.