Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. The law allows for sentences of two to 12 years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of rape, and authorities effectively enforced the law. The Ministry of Interior attributed 62 percent (29 cases) of homicides to domestic violence in the 12-month period ending October 31. Tacuarembo, Treinta y Tres, and Rocha Departments had the highest incidence of femicide.
The law criminalizes domestic violence, including physical, psychological, and sexual violence, but victims without severe injuries often did not file complaints. Victims of domestic violence requiring hospitalization were more likely to receive follow-up assistance from health-care providers and police authorities.
The law allows for sentences of six months’ to two years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of committing an act of violence or making continued threats of violence. Civil courts decided most of the domestic cases, and judges in these cases often issued restraining orders, which were difficult to enforce. The judiciary and the Ministry of Interior continued the use of double ankle-bracelet sets (one bracelet for the victim and one for the aggressor) to track the distance between the perpetrator and victim. During the year there were 346 sets of ankle bracelets in use, compared with 283 in 2015.
The Ministry of Social Development, some police stations in the interior, INAU, and NGOs operated shelters where abused women and children could seek temporary refuge. In 2015, 58 women and 99 children received temporary refuge in these shelters. All services were funded and staffed according to the reported prevalence of domestic violence in each location; nonetheless, NGOs and government actors reported the shelters were often overcrowded. The Montevideo municipal government and the state-owned telephone company Antel funded a free nationwide hotline operated by trained NGO employees for victims of domestic violence.
The government’s 2016-2019 Action Plan For a Life Free of Gender-Based Violence provided interagency coordination on violence prevention, access to justice, victim protection and attention, and punishment of perpetrators. It also promoted social and cultural awareness and provided training for public servants to deal more effectively with gender-based violence. The Prosecutor General’s Office established a specialized gender unit in September to incorporate a gender perspective in the agency’s work, promote greater respect for women’s rights, combat gender-based violence, and enhance interagency coordination on gender issues.
The National Institute of Women and the National Institute of Employment and Professional Training signed an agreement to offer job skills training to female victims of domestic violence and discrimination.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and punishes it by fines or dismissal. The law establishes guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as in student-professor relations, and provides damages for survivors.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: The law grants the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women, however, faced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, housing, and business ownership. The law does not require equal pay for equal work. In May, UN Women Deputy Regional Representative Lara Blanco noted that women’s access to jobs increased by 3 percent in 2015 but that a 20 percent difference remained, compared with men’s access to jobs.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and/or from one’s parents. The government immediately registered all births.
Child Abuse: The System for the Protection of Childhood and Adolescence Against Violence (SIPIAV) reported 44 cases of child abuse in 2015, mostly corresponding to sexual and psychological abuse. INAU reported 1,908 cases of violence against children in 2015. INAU’s hotline reported receiving 8,720 calls for information and requests for assistance in 2015, the latest period for which information was available. A UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report published in June noted that despite improvements, 54 percent of children under age 14 were victims of some kind of “violent discipline” at home–more so in urban areas than in rural ones. Thirty-four percent of boys and 18 percent of girls suffered physical and psychological aggressions.
The government sponsored awareness campaigns against child abuse. SIPIAV–which was led by INAU and included representatives from the Ministries of Social Development, of Health, and of Interior; the judicial branch; UNICEF; NGOs; and the National Education Board–coordinated interagency efforts regarding protection of children’s rights.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but with parental consent it is 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Early marriage was not perceived to be a significant problem.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities made efforts to enforce the law through investigations and prosecutions. The law does not specifically criminalize prostitution of children as child sex trafficking. The penal code establishes the minimum age for consensual sex as 12. When a sexual union takes place between an adult and a minor under age 15, violence is presumed and statutory rape laws, which carry a penalty of two to 12 years in prison, may be applied. Minors between ages 12 and 15 may legally engage in consensual sex with each other. Penalties for trafficking children range from four to 16 years in prison. Child pornography is illegal, and penalties range from one to six years in prison. Some children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation, pornography, and sex trafficking. Laws against child pornography were effectively enforced.
In December the Ministry of Social Development presented a report of the National Committee for the Eradication of Commercial and Noncommercial Sexual Exploitation of Children on sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. The report noted the committee assisted with 285 cases during the year.
Institutionalized Children: INAU’s 2015 annual report stated 511 adolescents were in INISA homes (see section 1.c., Prison and Detention Center Conditions).
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish Central Committee reported that the Jewish community had an estimated population of 15,000.
In March businessman and community leader David Fremd was stabbed to death in the city of Paysandu by a schoolteacher allegedly aligned with anti-Jewish movements. Police arrested Carlos Omar Peralta, and a judge indicted him for the murder of Fremd and religious hatred and requested a psychiatric evaluation. The psychiatric report stated Peralta’s mental condition could not make him legally responsible for the crime. He was committed to Vilardebo, a public mental-health hospital.
In January the government granted media networks time to broadcast a commemorative message for International Holocaust Day. In May the government’s Plan Ceibal program (digital connectivity for education) presented a project on the memory and legacy of the Holocaust. In November, President Tabare Vazquez participated in B’nai B’rith Uruguay’s annual commemoration of Kristallnacht.
The Canelones municipality in the department of Canelones accepted a petition from the Jewish community to modify local cemetery regulations that require a minimum of 12 hours post mortem for burials.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. The law prohibits abuse of persons with disabilities in educational and mental facilities, including degrading treatment, arbitrary commitment, and abusive use of physical restraints; unhygienic conditions; inadequate or dangerous medical care; and sexual or other violence. The law also grants persons with disabilities the right to vote and participate in civic affairs without restriction. The government in general did not monitor compliance and did not effectively enforce provisions or promote programs to provide for access to buildings, information, public transportation, and communications.
PRONADIS is the governmental entity responsible for developing actions, programs, and regulations to provide building and facilities access; cultural, sports and recreational opportunities; education; and employment to persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Development continued to train government employees on the content of the manual of good practices in dealing with persons with disabilities and to organize training workshops for government employees. In September the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Social Development signed an agreement to raise awareness, strengthen social inclusion, and improve access to travel opportunities for persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Tourism held an award ceremony to honor companies committed to good practices in providing access for persons with disabilities.
The law reserves no less than 4 percent of public-sector jobs for persons with physical and mental disabilities. Government decrees certify and regulate the use of canes and establish provisions for extending adequate training in their use. Guide dogs legally have full access to public and private premises and transportation. Most public buses did not have provisions for passengers with disabilities other than one reserved seat, although airports and ports offered accessibility accommodations. The law also provides tax benefits to private-sector companies and grants priority benefits to small and medium-sized companies owned by persons with disabilities.
The law grants children with disabilities the right to attend school (primary, secondary, and higher education). Ramps built at public elementary and high schools facilitated access for wheelchair users, and 87 percent of children and adolescents with disabilities attended school, including institutions of higher education. The state-funded University of the Republic offered sign-language interpreters for deaf students. Some movie theaters and other cultural venues lacked access ramps. Plan Ceibal continued to offer specially adapted laptops to children with disabilities. Some parks in Montevideo and Canelones offered wheelchair-accessible facilities.
The country’s Afro-Uruguayan minority, estimated at 8 percent of the population, continued to face societal discrimination and high levels of poverty. Twenty-six percent of the Ministry of Social Development welfare program (Tarjeta Uruguay Social) was directed to members of the Afro-Uruguayan community. The law grants 8 percent of state jobs to Afro-Uruguayan minority candidates who comply with constitutional and legal requirements. In 2015 Afro-Uruguayans held only 2.7 percent of state jobs. The National Employment Agency is required to include Afro-Uruguayans in its training courses. The law also requires that all scholarship and student support programs include a quota for Afro-Uruguayans, and it grants financial benefits to companies that hire them. An interagency antidiscrimination committee and the National Institution of Human Rights receive complaints of racism.
NGOs reported “structural racism” in society and noted that the percentage of Afro-Uruguayans working as unskilled laborers was much higher than for other groups. Afro-Uruguayans were underrepresented in government (two representatives in parliament and the president of the National Postal Service were Afro-Uruguayan), academia, and in the middle and upper echelons of private-sector firms. Unemployment of Afro-Uruguayan women remained high. The NGO Mundo Afro continued its AM radio talk show to raise awareness of racism and its antidiscrimination campaign through a network of informal AM radio stations; other outreach efforts included regional exhibitions and seminars for government employees responsible for staff recruitment.
As head of the government’s ethnic and racial equality efforts, the Ministry of Social Development declared July the first Month of Afro-descendants. In July the ministry and the African Descent and Public Policies Department of the University of the Republic organized a seminar on Afro-descendant issues. The ministry organized a workshop on public policies about combatting structural racism.
In August the National Public Education Administration and Ministry of Social Development presented the guide Education and Afro-descent for teachers to use in their classrooms. The guide included modules that stress the use of the term Afro-descendant over other terms, recommended that teachers cite prominent Afro-Uruguayan leaders of the community in teaching the country’s history, emphasized diversity as a positive value, and provided interactive tools with displays of African cultural activities that could be complemented with Afro-Uruguayan cultural education. In September the President’s Office of Planning and Budget and the School of Humanities and Educational Sciences at the University of the Republic signed an agreement to carry out a study on the impact of racism and discrimination on the Afro-Uruguayan community.
The National Police Academy, National School for Peacekeeping Operations of Uruguay, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ School of Diplomacy included discrimination awareness training as part of their curricula. Mundo Afro’s Higher Institute for Afro Training offered courses related to Afro-descendant culture. In 2015 the Ministry of Interior created an Ethnic and Racial Affairs Unit.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Authorities generally protected the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, although civil society representatives asserted that generally government mechanisms for protection were weak and ineffective. Public-health regulations prevent gay men who had same-sex intercourse within 12 months to donate blood.
Members of the transgender community claimed to suffer social discrimination in society and within their families.
In June the Ministry of Public Health released a sexual diversity guide for professionals in the health sector and for the general public. The guide was cosponsored by the Medical School of the University of the Republic, the NGO Ovejas Negras, and the UN Population Fund.
In December 2015 the Montevideo municipality created a Diversity Secretariat and elaborated a plan of action for 2016-2020. The LGBT Chamber of Commerce, created in 2015, continued to expand agreements with departmental governments to foster diversity tourism programs.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were isolated reports of societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In June public health authorities presented a 2015 report stating only 70-75 percent of individuals infected with HIV were diagnosed and that the infection had increased in men ages 15-24.