Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. 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 law criminalizes domestic violence and allows sentences of six months’ to two years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of committing an act of domestic violence or making continued threats of violence. Civil courts decided most domestic cases, and judges in these cases often issued restraining orders, which were difficult to enforce.
The government began implementation of a new gender-based violence law passed in December 2017, which builds on existing legislation on domestic violence. The new law includes abuse that is physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, based on prejudice for sexual orientation, economic, related to assets, symbolic, obstetric, labor-related, educational, political, or related to media presence; it also includes street sexual harassment and femicide. The law aims to create an institutional response system and establishes specialized courts. It sets minimum standards of support and assistance to be provided by the government, to include shelters for the victims and immediate family members. The law attempts to avoid revictimization in social and legal procedures and seeks to make the judicial process more agile. According to civil society contacts, the comprehensive, gender-based violence law was not being fully implemented due in part to logistical barriers, particularly in the judicial branch. According to civil society representatives, law enforcement and social services for victims were inadequate.
A separate femicide law modifies aggravating circumstances from a homicide to include whether the crime “caused the death of a female due to motive of hate or contempt.” The law describes femicide as a structural inequality between women and men that uses gender-based violence as a mechanism to oppress women. In May a judge gave two individuals the maximum sentence of 45 years in prison for the rape and murder of a girl in Rivera Department. The government trained officials on aspects of gender-based violence and sexual assault.
The Ministry of Interior reported 191 cases of rape from January to July 2017, a 22 percent increase from the same period in 2016. The government reported 28,927 cases of domestic violence from January to October, a 10 percent increase from the 26,648 cases from January to October 2017. In 2017, 29 women died due to domestic violence perpetrated by their partners or family members, an increase of 21 percent compared with 2016. In 2017 the judiciary investigated 626 police officers implicated in gender-based violence cases. The government applied the electronic bracelet program in 1,657 cases, compared with 526 in the previous year, to address domestic violence. In November the government launched a Gender-Based Violence Observatory to monitor, collect, register, and analyze data on gender-based violence.
The Ministry of Social Development, some police stations in the interior, the National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs (INAU), and NGOs operated shelters where abused women and children could seek temporary refuge. Civil society reported that shelters for victims were often full and that there was a lack of immediate services and first responders. Services for victims in the interior of the country were even more scarce. 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. Victims can also file a report online or at a police station.
The government’s 2016-19 action plan to combat gender-based violence provided for 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. The Prosecutor General’s Office had a specialized gender unit that incorporated a greater awareness of gender as it relates to matters of justice, promoted greater respect for women’s rights, combatted gender-based violence, and enhanced interagency coordination. The Ministry of Interior also had a gender policy unit that designed, evaluated, and monitored policies with a gender perspective incorporated. The unit ensured a clear policy on gender-based violence in the police force and trained police staff to handle and respond to cases.
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 victims. The Ministry of Labor receives reports of sexual harassment, its labor inspectors investigate claims of sexual harassment, and the ministry issues fines as necessary.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women, however, faced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, housing, and business ownership. According to the United Nations, women’s employment was concentrated in a relatively small number of specific occupations and sectors, including services, sales, unskilled labor, domestic work, social services, health services, and education.
The law does not require equal pay for equal work. The Ministry of Labor’s Tripartite Equal Employment Opportunities Commission promoted the inclusion of gender equality clauses in the negotiations conducted by the wage boards, emphasizing equal pay for equal work of value, equal access to quality jobs and training, elimination of discrimination in selection and promotion processes, and guarantees and protections for maternity and responsibility sharing. According to the local consulting firm CPA Ferrere, the salary of women in the labor market was 23.9 percent below that of men.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or from one’s parents. The government immediately registered all births.
Child Abuse: A total of 3,155 cases of violence against children and adolescents were recorded in the INAU information system in 2017, an increase of 43 percent compared with 2016. INAU provided a free, nationwide hotline. The System for the Protection of Childhood and Adolescence Against Violence (SIPIAV) and NGOs implemented awareness campaigns. SIPIAV coordinated interagency efforts regarding the protection of children’s rights.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 16, but the law requires parental consent through age 18. In late 2017 INAU reported that one in seven marriages were between persons ages 14 to 19 years. According to the United Nations, 15 percent of women were formally or informally married before age 18, and 7.4 percent of adolescents between age 15 and 19 were married. In June a legislator reported forced marriages were a regular practice in Arab communities on the border with Brazil.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography; some children were victims, and authorities made efforts to enforce the law. The law does not specifically criminalize prostitution of children as child sex trafficking. The law 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 law, which carries a penalty of two to 12 years in prison, may be applied. Penalties for child sex trafficking range from four to 16 years in prison. The penalty for child pornography ranges from one to six years in prison, and the law was effectively enforced.
The National Committee for the Eradication of the Commercial and Noncommercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents continued to implement its national action plan for 2016-21.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
The Central Jewish Committee reported that the Jewish community had an estimated population of 20,000.
Jewish leaders reported acts of anti-Semitism, including verbal harassment and aggressive behavior toward Jewish individuals. In January, two young Jewish travelers were denied entry into a youth hostel in Barra de Valizas, Rocha Department, due to their Israeli origins. The hostel owner said they were not welcome in his home because he was opposed to the political situation in Israel. The Central Israeli Committee of Uruguay said it was a case of discrimination based on both nationality and religion. In October unknown individuals vandalized areas of the city of Melo’s Constitution Plaza in the department of Cerro Largo. Offenders painted swastikas on structures and on national symbols within the plaza. Local authorities took immediate measures to clean up the anti-Semitic graffiti.
As in previous years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported activities to commemorate the Holocaust. The parliament organized a special session in January to honor Holocaust victims. Also in January the government issued a nationally broadcast message commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The “Shoa Project,” an online educational tool on the Holocaust, launched a contest during the year for high school students to raise awareness of Holocaust resistance fighters.
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 protects the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. The law prohibits abuse of persons with disabilities in educational and mental facilities. According to the INDDHH, persons with disabilities continued to experience human rights abuses. Persons with disabilities living in facilities were unprotected and vulnerable due to lack of effective mechanisms for supervision. One particular center, Aldea de la Bondad, was reported to have poor and sometimes unsafe living conditions, and during the year all of the patients were transferred. There were some cases of sexual abuse of persons with disabilities in institutions by government officials, but the government enforced the law in these cases. In one particular case of human rights abuse, an employee of a center for youth with disabilities in Paysandu was investigated and prosecuted for abusing two children.
The government in general did not monitor compliance and did not effectively enforce provisions or promote programs to provide for access to education, employment, buildings, information, public transportation, health services, and communications. Civil society representatives said there was a general lack of services for persons with disabilities in the country’s interior.
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 government’s interagency National Honorary Committee on Disabilities (CNDH) developed, studied, evaluated, and implemented policies for the promotion, development, and integration of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Development continued to train government employees on dealing with persons with disabilities.
The law reserves no less than 4 percent of public-sector jobs for persons with physical and mental disabilities. In October a report of the National Office of Civil Service of the Presidency of the Republic stated that persons with disabilities filled 4.1 percent of government job vacancies during the year. In October the government passed a new law to reserve 4 percent of private-sector jobs for persons with disabilities in businesses with more than 25 workers. In July, PRONADIS published a guide, Labor Inclusion for Disabled Persons, to give companies information on the legal framework on disability rights and guidance on how to implement activities to promote labor inclusion of persons with disabilities. According to PRONADIS, 37 percent of persons with disabilities were able to work. The CNDH reported that 80 percent of persons with disabilities were unemployed. A disabled member of parliament was unable to enter the Chamber of Representatives with disability support staff in order to perform her duties.
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 local government in Montevideo began implementation of its first accessibility plan with 180 goals to improve living and accessibility conditions for citizens with disabilities. The plan included creating specialized taxi vehicles to transport passengers with disabilities, more brochures with braille and subtitled information campaigns, and an increase of accessibility features in recreational spaces such as beaches, parks, and Carnival parade sites. The law 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). The state-funded University of the Republic offered sign-language interpreters for deaf students. Ramps built at public elementary and high schools facilitated access, but some government buildings, commercial sites, movie theaters, and other cultural venues lacked access ramps. NGO representatives reported that hospitals and medical services were not always accessible to patients with disabilities. Medical staff often lacked training to deliver primary care and attention to these patients. Plan Ceibal continued to offer specially adapted laptops to children with disabilities. By law open television channels are required to have simultaneous sign-language interpretation or subtitles on informational and some other programs by year’s end, or else they could be fined. The National Sports Secretariat, local government, and the Lifeguard Association hosted the third annual Inclusive Surfing Festival. In August the Ministry of Tourism signed an agreement with the Uruguayan Gas Vendors Union to install more disability-accessible bathrooms along highways around the country.
The country’s Afro-Uruguayan minority continued to face societal discrimination, high levels of poverty, and lower levels of education. The interagency antidiscrimination committee and the National Institution of Human Rights continued to 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.
In July, as head of the government’s ethnic and racial equality efforts, the Ministry of Social Development, in conjunction with NGOs, commemorated the third annual month of Afrodescendant heritage with cultural and awareness activities. The ministry launched a National Plan for Racial Equality in December. The committee managing the System for the Protection of Victims of Racism and Racial Discrimination developed a strategic plan for 2018-19. The government issued countrywide seed funding for projects centered on Afrodescendant culture and society. In August the government hosted the third annual Academic Conference on Afrodescendant Issues, with a focus on education, and racial and ethnic equality. 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. The Ministry of Interior organized workshops to review police protocols and procedures involving ethnicity issues for police around the country. The Ministry of Social Development and the interagency antidiscrimination committee held awareness-raising workshops for their staff.
Afro-Uruguayans were underrepresented in government (two representatives in the 130-seat parliament and the president of the National Postal Service were Afro-Uruguayan), academia, and in the middle and upper echelons of private-sector firms. The law grants 8 percent of state jobs to Afro-Uruguayan minority candidates who comply with constitutional and legal requirements. The National Office of the Civil Service oversees compliance with the Afro-Uruguayan employment quota requirements and submits an annual report to parliament. Afro-Uruguayans accounted for 2 percent of all hires during the year. Although the quota was not reached, more organizations had issued compliant vacancy announcements and hired individuals of African descent. In addition the percentage of women of African descent hired was higher than in previous years. The National Employment Agency is required to include Afro-Uruguayans in its training courses. The law requires all scholarship and student support programs to include a quota for Afro-Uruguayans, and it grants financial benefits to companies that hire them. Nonetheless, UN reports described it was difficult to ensure the ethnoracial perspective was included in all scholarship programs to meet the quotas.
A judge sentenced four gasoline station employees to four to six months of probation for physically and psychologically attacking a learning-disabled colleague in June on racial and religious grounds. The victim was beaten and positioned in a crucifixion pose; his attackers said, “This is how we treat black people in Uruguay.” Civil society organizations criticized the sentence as being too lenient for the crime. The four individuals were fired and charged with aggravated violence and hate crimes after they confessed in an abbreviated trial. The complaint was filed by the gasoline station owner, after he saw viral footage of the attack on social media.
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. Leaders of civil society organizations reported that despite the legal advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) issues, societal discrimination remained high. In October the government approved a comprehensive transgender law, which outlines several new rights for transgender persons. The new law provides for access to work (a 1 percent quota for public-sector jobs), housing, and health; prohibits discrimination; allows persons to self-identify their gender and update their legal name through an administrative–not judicial–process; creates transgender scholarships; and offers payment for transgender persons born before 1975 in an effort to make reparations for those targeted during the dictatorship.
Authorities generally protected the rights of LGBTI persons, although civil society representatives asserted that government mechanisms for protection were weak and ineffective. According to Amnesty International, the country did not have any comprehensive, antidiscrimination policy that protected LGBTI citizens from violence in schools and public spaces or provided for their access to health services. The Latin America and Caribbean Transgender Persons Network (REDLACTRANS) presented a study showing that human rights violations against transgender women included discrimination, violence and aggression, theft, violation of the right to access justice, harassment, and homicide, among others. Discrimination toward transgender women was typically worse in the interior of the country, which tended to be more conservative and had smaller populations.
REDLACTRANS described that most transgender women worked in the informal sector, where their social rights (social security and other benefits) were not always guaranteed. They tended to be more vulnerable to dangerous and uncomfortable situations in sexual work and were less likely to file a report on any kind of threat or attack. The government reported that 30 percent of transgender persons were unemployed, only 25 percent worked in the formal sector, 70 percent were sex workers, and the majority had low levels of education. Transgender individuals claimed to have experienced difficulty accessing or using bathroom facilities, mainly in the workplace and in education centers.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were isolated reports of societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.