Violence against women is a significant social problem in Uruguay. In its 2007 report to CEDAW, the government reported that every nine days a woman or girl dies of domestic violence
According to the most recent data, in 2010, there were 15,177 reports of domestic violence and 1,115 reported sexual offences (this data was not disaggregated by sex).
The Penal Code was amended in 1995 to make domestic violence a distinct offence, and legislation was introduced in 2002 on the prevention, early detection and eradication of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Law of 2002, which includes physical, psychological and sexual violence,
endorsed the creation of police units specialised in domestic violence
and established the right of the victim to free legal advice through the Office of the Public Defender.
Moreover, a provision was included in the General Law on Education,
passed in 2009, with the aim of transforming gender stereotypes that lead to and perpetuate violence.
Nonetheless, the laws protecting women from violence have notable limitations and reflect “discriminatory cultural views of women”.
While the Penal Code includes a provision for acquittal for the perpetrator of a “crime of passion” committed in response to an act of adultery by the victim,
women found guilty of killing their husbands after being subjected to significant psychological pressure and physical violence are often imprisoned for aggravated murder.
According to data collected by the Ministry of Interior, there were 209 cases of domestic violence reported in 2007.
The Penal Code criminalises rape
in its Title X, Chapter IV, Article 272;
however marital rape is not specifically prohibited, although it is “covered within the generic type of rape” and it “may be included within the typification of other crimes”.
In the past, perpetrators of rape could be exempted from prosecution if they married their victims. This provision was withdrawn when the Penal Code was amended in 2006.
The Sexual Harassment Law,
passed in 2009, protects Uruguayan citizens from sexual harassment
in settings such as the workplace and education institutions.
In 2012, Uruguay’s Gender Policy Division from the Ministry of Interior, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund, led a study aimed at assessing the administrative devices for the enforcement of the Sexual Harassment Law. The study found that traditional gender roles continue to determine the hierarchy and the distribution of tasks within the Uruguayan police, which in turn results in a hostile environment for female civil servants; also officials lack proper training and sensitisation to manage sexual harassment cases. The consultants recommended the creation of special units that would include not only properly trained police officers but also legal advisors, psychologists and members of the Gender Division from the Ministry of Interior.
There is no evidence that female genital mutilation is practised.
As in other parts of Latin America, femicide
has been identified as a troubling problem in Uruguay. According to the 2012 ECLAC Annual Report, 20 women were murdered by their husband or partner in 2011.
A key challenge to effectively addressing violence against women is the lack of enforcement of the law. Although several studies have been carried out in order to identify the material, cultural and educational factors that justice sector personnel must overcome to properly apply the Domestic Violence Law,
the 2008 shadow report to CEDAW indicated that the judiciary continues to lack the resources and training to ensure the law on domestic violence was effectively implemented.
According to the Second Hemispheric Report on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Belem do Para Convention on Violence Against Women, Uruguay continues to make efforts such as raising awareness through the dissemination of information in the forms of pamphlets, hand-outs and websites. Also, a team was created within INMUJERES in charge of the oversight of the institutions that deliver services to victims of domestic violence.
is illegal in Uruguay under the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Law,
except to save the woman’s life or health and in the cases of rape or incest.
In 2008, Uruguay’s passed the Law on the Defense of the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health, which states “that the process of giving birth must be as humane as possible, while guaranteeing privacy; respecting the woman’s biological and psychological clock and her cultural customs and practices, and avoiding invasive or intrusive practices or unwarranted medicating”.
In its 2007 report, CEDAW noted the alarmingly growing number of unsafe illegal abortions practiced in Uruguay and regretted that a bill that would decriminalise abortion was approved by the House of Representatives but then rejected by the Senate. Moreover, CEDAW cites a 2004 study, sponsored by the International Centre for Research and Information for Peace, to assert that the number of secret abortions was “at no less than 33,000 in 2003 (in a country with approximately 49,000 live births each year)”.
 CEDAW (2007), p. 9  OAS (2012), p. 200  Law No. 17,514  CEDAW (2007), p. 11  OAS (2012), p. 159  Law No. 18,437  OAS (2012), pp. 159, 141  CEDAW (2007), p. 22  Article 36  CEDAW (2007), p. 22  US State Department (2008)  Uruguay Penal Code, http://www.parlamento.gub.uy/Codigos/CodigoPenal/l2t10.htm (accessed 01/2014)  OAS (2012), p. 119  CEDAW (2007), p. 22  Sexual Harassment Law No. 18,561  OAS (2012), p. 119; http://www.parlamento.gub.uy/leyes/AccesoTextoLey.asp?Ley=18561&Anchor (accessed 22/01/2014)  Ministerio del Interior de Uruguay/UNFPA (2012), pp. 32-36 http://www.eclac.cl/publicaciones/xml/7/49307/2012-1042_OIG-ISSN_WEB.pdf (accessed 01/29/2014), p. 80  OAS (2012), p. 73  CLADEM et al. (2008)  OAS (2012), p. 177  Law No. 18,987 (Interrupción Voluntaria Del Embarazo)  UN DESA (2013)  OAS (2012), p. 39  CEDAW (2007), pp. 20-21