Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 - Uruguay

URUGUAY (Tier 2)

Uruguay is a source country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Most victims are women and girls exploited in sex trafficking within the country, particularly in urban and tourist areas. Lured by fraudulent employment offers, some Uruguayan women are forced into prostitution in Spain and Italy. Authorities uncovered a case of Uruguayan women and girls subjected to forced prostitution in Argentina after being recruited with false promises of a modeling career. There were isolated reports of foreign girls exploited in domestic servitude, and officials and civil society organizations noted that foreign migrant workers in agriculture and domestic service were vulnerable to labor exploitation. Authorities continued to report that some cases of human trafficking were linked to local and international crime rings that smuggle narcotics and other contraband.

The Government of Uruguay does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased its efforts to provide victim services in partnership with civil society, and initiated its first prosecution under the 2008 anti-trafficking statute. However, law enforcement efforts remained limited, authorities lacked formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims, and specialized services and shelter were inadequate. Anti-trafficking efforts are almost exclusively focused on sex trafficking.

Recommendations for Uruguay: Intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute all forms of trafficking and convict and sentence trafficking offenders; fund specialized services for trafficking victims, particularly outside the capital; increase training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers on how to identify and assist victims of sex and labor trafficking; increase resources for the organized crime court in Montevideo; establish a formal mechanism to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including people in prostitution and migrant workers; implement a data collection system to maintain official statistics on trafficking cases; consider enacting an action plan or protocol to enhance interagency coordination; incorporate measures against forced labor into guidelines governing the employment of foreign workers in Uruguay; and raise awareness of all forms of trafficking, including forced labor and domestic servitude.


The Government of Uruguay maintained law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Article 78 of the immigration law, enacted in 2008, prohibits all transnational forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 16 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are increased if the victim is a child or if the trafficker uses violence, intimidation, or deceit, and are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. For forced labor offenses occurring within Uruguay’s border, authorities can use Article 280 of the penal code, which prohibits “reducing a person to slavery”, and prescribes sentences between two and six years’ imprisonment; or Article 281, which prohibits “imprisonment for the purposes of profiting from the coercive use of the victim’s services,” and prescribes sentences of six to 12 years’ imprisonment. In the past, Uruguayan courts have convicted trafficking offenders under statutes on sexual exploitation or pimping; however, these statutes prescribe lesser sentences and some can be commuted to community service or fines. Two judges in the specialized court on organized crime in Montevideo have jurisdiction over trafficking cases, as well as other cases involving sexual exploitation and organized crime. However, this court lacked sufficient human and material resources and faced an enormous caseload, and there was no systematic data collection on trafficking offenses. There was no specialized law enforcement unit dealing with human trafficking crimes, and local police lacked adequate training on how to identify human trafficking cases, raising concerns that not all cases were properly referred to the organized crime court.

Uruguayan officials investigated at least three sex trafficking cases in 2011, and authorities identified 40 cases of children in prostitution during the year, but it is unclear how many of these cases were sex trafficking. Authorities initiated at least two prosecutions during the reporting period, including the first prosecution using the 2008 trafficking-specific statute. Authorities achieved one conviction for sexual exploitation of a minor in a case where a mother prostituted her daughter; the mother received a sentence of five years’ imprisonment. In comparison, during the previous reporting period, the Government of Uruguay convicted one trafficking offender and sentenced four offenders under statutes prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children. The government updated training materials for identifying and assisting trafficking victims for members of its diplomatic service, and partnered with international organizations to train law enforcement officials, although it did not provide specialized training on forced labor to its labor inspectors. Authorities conducted a cooperative investigation with Argentine officials during the year. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of any public officials for trafficking-related offenses.


The Uruguayan government continued to provide limited protection to trafficking victims, although few specialized services were available, and international donors provided the bulk of funding for these services. The government did not develop or implement formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as adults in prostitution or undocumented migrants. Uruguayan officials did not maintain statistics regarding the number of victims identified or assisted. During the reporting period, the government’s National Institute for Adolescents and the Women’s Institute in the Social Development Ministry partnered with an NGO to provide services to sex trafficking victims through a pilot program funded by a foreign donor; the government reportedly designated funding to maintain this program once its foreign funding ends in August 2012. Through this program, one NGO provided psychological care and assistance to 18 adult sex trafficking victims, some of whom were deported from European countries where they were exploited. There are no specialized shelters for trafficking victims in the country. Uruguayan authorities referred child victims of trafficking to government shelters for at-risk youth for care; however, these shelters were not always prepared to provide specialized services needed for trafficking victims. The government operated general shelters accessible to adult female victims of abuse, including trafficking victims, and sought to provide them with legal, medical, and psychological care, although it is unclear how many adult trafficking victims, if any, received services at these shelters. Victim care services were uneven outside the capital, and shelters in the capital could not accommodate the demand. An NGO assisting trafficking victims housed victims in a variety of spaces, as there was limited availability in these shelters. Government-operated shelters did not detain adult trafficking victims involuntarily. There were no specialized services for male trafficking victims. The government failed to budget adequate funding to fulfill victim assistance mandates, and, as a result, many victims relied on NGO and family support. The government encouraged, but did not require, victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. During the year, there were no reports of identified trafficking victims being jailed, deported, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Beyond access to general asylum, the government offered no specific legal alternatives to trafficking victims’ removal to countries where they face retribution or hardship.


The Uruguayan government sustained prevention efforts during the reporting period; most of these efforts focused on sex trafficking. The Ministry of Social Development continued to chair an interagency committee that coordinated government anti-trafficking efforts; it met on a monthly basis in 2011. This committee focused almost exclusively on sex trafficking of adult women, and it reportedly drafted a protocol to establish an interagency framework for action. Another committee on the commercial and non-commercial sexual exploitation of minors met every other week. Authorities forged a partnership with an NGO to train 30 journalists on human trafficking, and the Ministry of Tourism continued an awareness campaign at the airport and border control stations on commercial sexual exploitation of girls. There were no known efforts to address the demand for forced labor. Authorities provided anti-trafficking training to Uruguayan troops prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions during the year.

Associated documents

  • Document ID 1068470 Related / Associated
  • Methodology associated with Report on human trafficking (covering March 2011 to February 2012)

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