Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

Uruguay: Update to URY39133.E of 14 August 2002 about the treatment of homosexuals and URY41914.E of 8 September 2003 regarding Penal Code amendments allowing for the punishment of violent acts committed by reason of a victim's sexual orientation; situation of gays and lesbians; availability of legal and state protection (2003-June 2004)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 16 June 2004
Citation / Document Symbol URY42738.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Uruguay: Update to URY39133.E of 14 August 2002 about the treatment of homosexuals and URY41914.E of 8 September 2003 regarding Penal Code amendments allowing for the punishment of violent acts committed by reason of a victim's sexual orientation; situation of gays and lesbians; availability of legal and state protection (2003-June 2004), 16 June 2004, URY42738.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c6ee.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

On 10 July 2003, the Parliament of Uruguay approved amendments to articles 149.2 and 149.3 of the Penal Code's Law 17677 that would make it illegal to provoke hatred and violence toward a person due to, among other things, their sexual orientation (IGLHRC 15 July 2003; Opus Gay 29 July 2003; Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas Dec. 2003). Further to information found in URY41914.E of 8 September 2003, news and human rights sources reported that the amendments to Law 17677 came into force on 17 August 2003 (Espectador 1 Sept. 2003; Coordinadora Uruguaya del Orgullo LGTTIB 1 Sept. 2003).

OpusGay, a Chilean-based gay-rights advocacy magazine, in an article about the reforms to the penal code, stated that Uruguay would become the first Latin American country that could punish those convicted of homophobic crimes with imprisonment (29 July 2003). The new amendments reportedly allow for prison terms of three to eighteen months (Article 149.2) or six to twenty-four months (Article 149.3) for any person who "publicly or through any media incite[s or indulges] in hatred, disregard or any form of moral or physical violence against one or more persons on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, profession, craftsmanship, or physical condition" (IGLHRC 15 July 2003; OpusGay 29 July 2003; Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas Dec. 2003).

Also in July 2003, for the first time in Uruguay's legal history, Liber Berriel, a gay man, was awarded compensation of US$14,000 in "moral damage" (dano moral) for the death of his partner who was killed in an automobile accident in 1999 (BBC Mundo 12 Aug. 2003; El Pais 31 July 2003). The judicial decision reportedly set a legal precedent by recognizing Berriel as the life partner of the deceased and was hailed by Uruguayan gay rights advocates and organizations as a step towards opening the political debate for legalizing same sex unions (ibid.).

With regard to the situation of gays and lesbians, Gay Times, a London-based Website providing information to gays and lesbians, reported in its country guide to Uruguay that tolerance towards gay and lesbian culture has grown, especially in Montevideo, where a number of gay clubs, saunas, and cinemas have been established (Gay Times n.d.; ibid. 22 Dec. 2003). The 2003 World Policy Institute report Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas also noted a changing attitude towards homosexuals in Uruguay (Dec. 2003). Moreover, the report states that Montevideo's gay pride parade has become so popular since its inaugural event in 1993 that supportive heterosexual groups such as the Federation of High School Students have joined in the celebration (Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas Dec. 2003).

Nevertheless, declarations condemning homosexuality made by the Archbishop of Montevideo, Nicolas Cotugno, have pitted the Catholic Church against gay and lesbian rights groups in Uruguay (New Internationalist 1 May 2004; Espectador 1 Sept. 2003; Coordinadora Uruguaya del Orgullo LGTTIB 1 Sept. 2003). In a statement made just three days prior to the implementation of the amendments to Law 17677, Archbishop Cotugno declared homosexuality to be a contagious disease and compared homosexual marriage to that of a union between men and animals (New Internationalist 1 May 2004; Espectador 1 Sept. 2003; Coordinadora Uruguaya del Orgullo LGTTIB 1 Sept. 2003).

According to the Uruguayan Pride Coordination group (Coordinadora Uruguaya del Orgullo LGTTIB), a coalition of nine gay and lesbian organizations, Archbishop Cotugno's comments received condemnation from various sectors of society such as the Uruguayan Coordinator against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, and political deputies (diputados) from the five political parties of the national Chamber (Camara) (Coordinadora Uruguaya del Orgullo LGTTIB 1 Sept. 2003). Archbishop Cotugno's efforts to reconcile with members of the gay and lesbian community had the effect of further alienating homosexuals when he announced that various parishes would be implementing "Homosexuals Anonymous" self-help groups in order to help cure (curarse) homosexuals from their depravity (depravacion) (ibid.).

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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

BBC Mundo. 12 August 2003. Hugo Carro. "Uruguay: avance en los derechos de los gay." [Accessed 4 June 2004]

Coordinadora Uruguaya del Orgullo LGTTIB, Montevideo. 1 September 2003. "Comunicado de Prensa." [Accessed 9 June 2004]

Espectador [Montevideo]. 1 September 2003. "Minorias sexuales rechazan declaraciones de Cotugno." [Accessed 4 June 2004]

Gay Times, London. 22 December 2003. Clive Sanders. "Gay Guide to Montevideo." [Accessed 10 June 2004]

____. n.d. "Lesbian and Gay Uruguay." [Accessed 21 May 2004]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 15 July 2003. "Uruguay Forbids Hate Speech and Violence Based on Sexual Orientation." [Accessed 4 June 2004]

New Internationalist [London]. 1 May 2004. Eduardo Galeano. "Rainbow Warriors." (Dialog)

OpusGay [Santiago]. 29 July 2003. Catalina Herrera. "Uruguay: Primer pais latinoamericano que sancionara con prision a los homofobicos." [Accessed 4 June 2004]

El Pais [Montevideo]. 31 July 2003. "Indemnizan a homosexual por muerte de companero." [Accessed 4 June 2004]

Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas. December 2003. Andrew Reding. "Uruguay." New York: World Policy Institute. [Accessed 4 June 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Unsuccessful attempts to contact Grupo LGTTB de Amnistia Internacional within time constraints.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact Uruguay-based gay advocacy group Grupo Diversidad within time constraints.

Internet: Amnesty International, Country Reports 2003, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Rex Wockner News, Social Watch.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld

Countries