Uruguay: Situation and treatment of sexual minorities, including legislation; state protection and support services (2012 - February 2014) [URY104818.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Situation

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 reports that, in Uruguay, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons faced societal discrimination (US 27 Feb. 2014, 16). A shadow report published by the Colectivo Ovejas Negras, an LGBT organization that aims to promote social, political and cultural developments toward recognizing, protecting and promoting LGBTI persons in Uruguay (Colectivo Ovejas Negras et. al. Oct. 2013, note 1), the Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern University's School of Law, and the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights on human rights violations against LGBTI persons in Uruguay, submitted at the 109th session of the UN Human Rights Committee, similarly states that societal homophobic and transphobic attitudes "manifest themselves in acts of discrimination, remarks that assault the dignity of LGBTI individuals, and acts of physical violence, including [murder] in the most extreme cases" (ibid., 4).

Country Reports 2013 states that "there were occasional reports of nonviolent societal discrimination, including in employment and occupation based on sexual orientation and gender identity" (US 27 Feb. 2014, 16). The global web portal for information and action on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which provides country-specific information on LGBTI rights and up-to-date news on sexual orientation and gender identity rights developments worldwide (IDAHO n.d.), published a report for 2013 stating that, according to the Colectivo Ovejas Negras, teachers and students experience discrimination in schools (ibid. 2013, 30). The Colectivo Ovejas Negras et al. note in the shadow report that,

[b]ecause of the absence of an effective mechanism for monitoring hate crimes against LGBTI individuals, it is impossible to provide a comprehensive account of the frequency or nature of these crimes. However, the results of a survey conducted during the 2005 Gay Pride Parade indicated that 3% of the respondents had been the victims of sexual aggression and an additional 10% had been the victims of other acts of physical violence. Overall, 48% of the respondents reported that they had been threatened or verbally insulted at least once in open public places (such as schools or workplaces) due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Colectivo Ovejas Negras et al. Oct. 2013, 6)

The report further notes that transgender women reported "widespread discrimination" when accessing the job market (ibid., 7). According to the report, "transgender people face automatic rejection in applying for jobs nearly 100 percent of the time, which leads them to resort to sex work" (ibid.). For more information on discrimination against LGBTI people in Uruguay, including in employment, health care and education, please see the Colectivo Ovejas Negras et al. report, which is attached to this Response. Further information on the discrimination against LGBTI persons in Uruguay could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. State Protection
2.1 Legislation

Country Reports 2013 indicated that, in Uruguay, there were "[n]o laws [that] criminalize sexual orientation, and authorities generally protected the rights of LGBT persons" (US 27 Feb. 2014, 16). GlobalGayz, a "gay-owned" website that provides information about LGBT issues, including travel, culture, religion and human rights, in different countries (GlobalGayz n.d.b), states that homosexuality was decriminalized in Uruguay in 1934 (ibid. n.d.a). According to the website of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), male-to-male and female-to-female relationships were "legal" in Uruguay (ILGA n.d.).

Agence France-Presse reports that, between 2007 and 2013, Uruguay legalized civil unions for same sex couples, legalized the adoption of children by gay couples, and "opened the military to gays" (3 Apr. 2013). BBC similarly reports that Uruguay now allows same-sex civil union, adoption by homosexuals and gay members in the armed forces (10 Apr. 2013). Uruguay legalized civil union for gay couples in December 2007, according to Pink News (10 Sept. 2009), or in 2008, according to the Globe and Mail(27 Nov. 2013), and legalized adoption for gay couples in 2009 (The Globe and Mail 27 Nov. 2013; Pink News 10 Sept. 2009). Media sources indicate that Uruguay's lifting of the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces took place in 2009 (The New York Times 15 May 2009; The Guardian 15 May 2009; Pink News 18 May 2009).

Sources report that, in April 2013, the Uruguay senate approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage (Human Rights Watch 2 Apr. 2013; Freedom House 2 Apr. 2013; IPS 10 Apr. 2013). Article 1 of the Equal Marriage Law (Ley No 19.073 Matrimonio Igualitario), adopted on 3 May 2013 (Colectivo Ovejas Negras et al. Oct. 2013, 4), states that a [translation] "[c]ivil marriage is a permanent union, under the law, of two persons of opposite or same sex" (Uruguay 2013).

2.2 Police and Judiciary

Without providing details, Country Reports 2012 states that in June 2012, "a judge found the owner of a bar guilty for 'exerting acts of spite and discrimination' against a well-known LGBT activist who was asked to leave the premises for being gay" (US 19 Apr. 2013, 15). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Amnesty International reports that "at least five transsexual women were killed in 2012" and only one perpetrator was brought to justice (AI 2013). The report published by the Colectivo Ovejas Negras et al. similarly indicates that the Uruguayan government recorded five murders of transgender women in 2012, which occurred in the following provinces: Canelones, Cerro Largo and Montevideo (Colectivo Ovejas Negras et al. Oct 2013, 6). Without providing details, the report states that one of these five murders was resolved by government authorities (ibid.).

According to Country Reports 2013, four transvestites were killed in 2012 and two were killed in 2013 (US 27 Feb. 2014, 16). The report further states that these cases were "unsolved" (ibid.). Country Reports 2013 notes that

[t]here were isolated reports of street violence against LGBT individuals; the police did not intervene in these incidents. CON [Colectivo Ovejas Negras] claimed police occasionally refused to file reports on discrimination and street violence. The NGO also asserted that in the provinces police committed acts of violence and degradation against transgender persons who were legally registered prostitutes. (ibid.)

The Colectivo Ovejas Negras et al. shadow report notes that "Uruguay frequently has failed to meet its positive obligation to investigate violations of the Covenant rights of LGBTI individuals, to punish those responsible for the violations, and to provide redress to the victims of the violations" (Oct. 2013, 13).

Further information on state protection and support services for sexual minorities could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 3 April 2013. "Uruguay Moves Closer to Legalizing Gay Marriage." (Factiva)

Amnesty International (AI). 2013. "Uruguay." Amnesty International Report 2013: The State of the World's Human Rights. [Accessed 5 Mar. 2014]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 10 April 2013. "Uruguay Congress Approves Gay Marriage Bill." [Accessed 10 Mar. 2014]

Colectivo Ovejas Negras, Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern University School of Law, and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights. October 2013. Human Rights Violations Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) People in Uruguay: a Shadow Report. [Accessed 6 Mar. 2014]

Freedom House. 2 April 2013. "Marriage Equality Law a Major Step Forward for LGBTI Rights in Uruguay." [Accessed 7 Mar. 2014]

GlobalGayz. N.d.a. "Uruguay, South America." [Accessed 10 Mar. 2014]

GlobalGayz. N.d.b. "Welcome to GlobalGayz - Gay Travel, Culture and LGBT Human Rights." [Accessed 10 Mar. 2014]

The Globe and Mail. 27 November 2013. Stephanie Nolen. "Pride in the Andes: How the Fight for Gay Rights is Changing Chile." (Factiva)

The Guardian. 15 May 2009. Rory Carroll. "Uruguay Lifts Ban on Gay Soldiers." (Factiva)

Human Rights Watch. 2 April 2013. "Uruguay: Marriage Equality Approved." [Accessed 6 Mar. 2014]

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) Committee. 2013. Annual Report 2013. [Accessed 6 Mar. 2014]

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) Committee. N.d. "About." [Accessed 18 Mar. 2014]

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). N.d. "Law." [Accessed 10 Mar. 2014]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 11 April 2013. Raúl Pierri. "Law: Uruguay - Second Country in Latin America to Adopt Gay Marriage." (Factiva)

The New York Times. 15 May 2009. "Uruguay: Gay Men and Women no Longer Barred from Military." (Factiva)

Pink News. 10 September 2009. "Gay Adoption Now Legal in Uruguay." [Accessed 11 Mar. 2014]

Pink News. 18 May 2009. "Uruguay Lifts Military Gay Ban." [Accessed 11 Mar. 2014]

United States (US). 27 February 2014. Department of State. "Uruguay." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. [Accessed 7 Mar. 2014]

United States (US). 19 April 2013. Department of State. "Uruguay." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. [Accessed 7 Mar. 2014]

Uruguay. 2013. Ley No. 19.075: Matrimonio Igualitario. [Accessed 20 Feb. 2014]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact individuals and representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: academics at the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA, and York University, Toronto; Alianza Gay Uruguay; Asociación de Ayuda al Sero Positivo; Centro de Estudios de Género y Diversidad Sexual; Comunidad GLTTIB del Uruguay; Federación Uruguaya de la Diversidad Sexual; Lesbian Association of Uruguayan ALU; Manos Púrpura LGBTH.

Internet sites, including: Asociación de Ayuda al Sero Positivo; Centro de Estudios de Género y Diversidad Sexual; Diariocambio.com.uy; Diariosalto.com.uy; ecoi.net; El Mundo; El País; Federación Uruguaya de la Diversidad Sexual; Fmgente.com.uy; Freedom House; Huffpost Gay Voices; Human Rights First; Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay; International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission; LaRed21.com.uy; Latin American Public Opinion Project, Merco Press; Montevideo.com.uy; República.com.uy; Time; United Nations – Population Fund, Integrated Regional Information Networks, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld; United States – US Agency for International Development; Uruguay – Ministerio de Desarrollo Social, Ministerio de Salud, Parlamento del Uruguay; Vanderbilt University.

Attachment

Colectivo Ovejas Negras, Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern University School of Law, and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights. October 2013. Human Rights Violations Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) People in Uruguay: a Shadow Report. [Accessed 6 Mar. 2014]