An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


The Government of Uruguay does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Uruguay remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by convicting more traffickers and introducing a proposal for a national action plan and a comprehensive anti-trafficking bill. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government initiated fewer prosecutions, courts did not impose sufficiently stringent sentences for convicted traffickers, and the government’s efforts to provide specialized victim services remained inadequate.

Increase availability of specialized services for trafficking victims, especially outside the capital and for male victims, and continue services throughout investigation and prosecution; vigorously investigate and prosecute labor trafficking, forced prostitution, and child trafficking and hold traffickers accountable with sufficiently stringent sentences; approve the comprehensive anti-trafficking bill and finalize the national action plan; increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers, particularly to identify and assist victims of sex and labor trafficking; and develop and operationalize a data collection system to maintain official statistics on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts.

The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 78 of the 2008 immigration law criminalizes all forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 16 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes. This article criminalizes forced labor, slavery or other similar practices, servitude and sexual exploitation. Article 79 makes it a crime punishable by two to eight years imprisonment to facilitate the movement of persons into or out of the country for the purpose of human trafficking. Article 81 provides enhanced penalties for both articles 78 and 79, when the crime is committed by a habitual offender or by police or other safety officials and when the victim is a child or when the trafficking involves “violence, intimidation or deception.” Although some of these “means” seem to fall implicitly within the scope of article 78, which criminalizes forced labor and sexual exploitation, article 81 appears to make violence, intimidation, deceit, or abuse of the vulnerability of the victim aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime. Articles 280 and 281 of the penal code prohibit forced labor, prescribing sentences ranging from two to 12 years imprisonment. A 1927 law (Law No. 8.080) criminalizes the exploitation of the prostitution of another person, with penalties ranging from two to eight years imprisonment. In addition, a 2004 sexual violence law (Law No. 17.815) criminalizes the prostitution, servitude, or sexual exploitation, including child pornography, of minors or persons with disabilities, with sentences from two to 12 years; authorities use these statutes to prosecute cases of child exploitation. Uruguayan authorities did not report how many of the cases processed under these laws were for adult or child sex trafficking. Two judges in the specialized court on organized crime in Montevideo had jurisdiction over all trafficking cases carried out by organized criminal groups of three or more individuals. Most trafficking cases were tried outside of this specialized court because they involved only one or two suspects. During the reporting period, the Interagency Committee to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons formally presented to the parliament, the judicial branch, and the attorney general’s office (AGO) a draft comprehensive anti-trafficking bill proposing legislation focused on prevention, investigation and support for victims of trafficking. The newly created gender unit within the AGO focused on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for crimes related to trafficking and the exploitation of children and adolescents.

The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and there was no system for tracking court cases. The AGO reported it was working on implementing a database to track cases and produce more accurate statistics. In the interim, individual courts and police departments remained the primary repositories for data collection. Uruguay’s transition from an “inquisitorial” to an “accusatorial” justice system, planned to begin in 2017, must take place before any new measures are taken to compile and centralize data. In 2016, the government initiated six investigations under article 78, three for forced labor and three for sex trafficking, and continued one sex trafficking investigation from 2015, compared with six investigations for sex trafficking initiated in 2015. In 2016, the government reported four prosecutions, two under article 78 and two under article 4 of law 17.815, compared with 16 prosecutions in 2015 and five in 2014. The government convicted three individuals for sex trafficking under article 78 in 2016, an increase from zero in 2015 and 2014. All three convictions were in the appeals process at the end of the reporting period. Authorities did not report the length of the sentences given in these cases; however, in previous instances, convicted traffickers avoided serious punishment as courts issued penalties that were inadequate to deter the crime. The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict anyone under article 280 or article 281 of the penal code in 2016. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and an international organization jointly organized two workshops on criminal investigations of human trafficking, human smuggling, and the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. The government organized a police procedure training course on gender-based violence with a module on trafficking in persons; a total of 274 officials participated. The MOI held a training course for 225 police officers on combating gender-based violence with a focus on the sexual exploitation of children.

The government maintained protection efforts. The National Institute for Women (INMujeres), in the Ministry of Social Development, was the principal provider of services for female victims of abuse. The National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs reported assisting 333 cases of sexual exploitation of minors in 2016; although it was unclear how many were victims of trafficking. INMujeres and an NGO reported providing assistance to 131 victims of trafficking, including 111 in Montevideo and 20 in the interior of the country, a decrease from the 222 reported in 2015. It was unclear how many were victims of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. INMujeres strengthened outreach to the interior of the country through a 14-member mobile unit with psychologists, social workers, and lawyers who provided psychological support, social services, and legal guidance. During the reporting period the MOI and AGO began using a standardized protocol to investigate cases and assist victims. The government provided several training opportunities for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers on victim identification and assistance.

The government provided 4,575,647 pesos ($157,401), an increase from 3,638,280 pesos ($125,156) in 2015, to INMujeres to assist adult female sex trafficking victims and women in prostitution with psychological, medical, and other services. There were no shelters designated for trafficking victims, so temporary and long-term housing solutions were determined on a case-by-case basis. There were no specialized services for male victims. According to an international organization, the government provided services for victims for 30 days after which victims received general support similar to that provided to homeless people.

The government provides protective measures to encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. According to an international organization, several of the protective measures available, such as victim relocation, changes of identity and economic assistance, were not fully implemented during the reporting period. Authorities reported Uruguay’s small population size made effective protection of victims’ identities a challenge. There were no reports victims were jailed, deported, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. While the government did not offer trafficking-specific legal alternatives to victims’ removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship, general asylum, and work permits were available for foreign trafficking victims.

The government increased prevention efforts. The Interagency Committee to Fight Trafficking in Persons met monthly, including two meetings specifically to develop a national action plan, which remained incomplete at the end of the reporting period. The committee expected to finalize the plan after the parliament approves the comprehensive anti-trafficking bill. The MOI, in coordination with the National Association of Broadcasters, recorded and broadcast a media campaign to raise public awareness. INMujeres hosted several awareness campaigns focused on training social workers to better understand trafficking and improve the response at the local and national levels. The Uruguayan parliament created a special committee with representatives from five different political parties to investigate trafficking. In September, the committee organized a conference on international cooperation against trafficking where participants discussed legislative, social, judicial and educational perspectives to trafficking and the benefits of increasing cooperation with civil society. The government made efforts to prevent child sex tourism, but did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. In 2016, Uruguay hosted a regional conference on preventing sexual exploitation of children with a focus on exploitation-free tourism. Authorities provided peacekeeping troops, prior to their deployment, a handbook addressing human rights and international humanitarian law in peacekeeping operations, which included a chapter on exploitation and sexual abuse. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

As reported over the past five years, Uruguay is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Uruguayan women and girls—and to a more limited extent transgender adults and male adolescents—are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Uruguayan women and LGBTI individuals are forced into prostitution in Spain, Italy, Argentina, and Brazil; however, the number of identified Uruguayan victims exploited abroad has decreased in recent years. Women from the Dominican Republic, and to a lesser extent from South American countries, are subjected to sex trafficking in Uruguay. Foreign workers, particularly from Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina, are subjected to forced labor in construction, domestic service, cleaning services, elderly care, wholesale stores, textile industries, agriculture, fishing, and lumber processing. Uruguayan officials have identified citizens of other countries, including China and the Dominican Republic, transiting Uruguay en route to other destinations, particularly Argentina, as potential victims of sex and labor trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future