LGBT rights in Uruguay

wikipedia Wikipedia view on Wikipedia

URY orthographic.svg
StatusLegal since 1934
Gender identityTransgender people allowed to change legal gender without a diagnosis, hormone therapy or surgery resulting in sterilization
MilitaryGays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation or identity protections since 2004 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsCivil unions since 2008;
Same-sex marriage since 2013
AdoptionLegal since 2009

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Uruguay are among the most liberal in both South America and the world. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal with an equal age of consent since 1934. Anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people have been in place since 2004. Civil unions for same-sex couples have been allowed since 2008 and same-sex marriages since 2013, in accordance with the nation's same-sex marriage law passed in early 2013. Additionally, same-sex couples have been allowed to jointly adopt since 2009 and gays, lesbians and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly in the military.

In 2016, Americas Quarterly named Uruguay the most LGBT-friendly country in Latin America, calling the nation "a model for social inclusion in Latin America". It also hosted the first international LGBT rights conference in Latin America in July 2016, with hundreds of diplomats, politicians and activists from around the world addressing LGBT issues.[1] A large majority of Uruguayans support same-sex marriage.[2]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1934.[3] The age of consent became equal at 15, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender. However, under Uruguay's Penal Code, charges can be brought to those manipulating minors below the age of 18 into having sexual relations.[4]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Same-sex couples have been allowed to marry since August 2013, and have had access to civil unions, which do not grant all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, since 2008.

Uruguay was the first Latin American country to legalize civil unions under national legislation. Under the legislation, couples must be together for at least five years and sign a registry. The couples will receive health benefits, inheritance, parenting and pension rights. The bill was passed in Parliament on 30 November 2007 after having been passed in a slightly different form in the Senate earlier in February 2007; the bill was passed by both chambers in the same form on 19 December[5] and signed into law by President Tabaré Vázquez on 27 December.[6] It came into effect since 1 January 2008.[7]

In June 2012, a judicial court in Uruguay granted recognition to a same-sex marriage licensed in Spain, creating a paradoxical situation, in which Uruguay recognizes same-sex marriages established in any country but Uruguay,[8][9][10] and Uruguayans who marry elsewhere can petition a judge to recognize their marriage under Uruguayan law. The court also held that local laws permit same-sex marriage, even if they do not say so explicitly.[11] The ruling was appealed, however, and rendered moot when Uruguay's same-sex marriage law went into effect.

In July 2010, lawmakers of the ruling Broad Front announced their intention to legalize same sex marriage.[12][13][14] In 2011, the Marriage Equality Bill got introduced to Parliament. In December 2012, the bill passed the Chamber of Representatives by a vote of 81-6,[15][16] and passed the Senate on 2 April 2013 by a 23-8 vote. Due to the Senate changing some aspects of the bill, the Chamber of Representatives re-voted on the bill on 11 April 2013, and approved it by a vote of 71 to 21.[17] completing the legislative process to enable same-sex couples to marry in the nation. The legislatively approved law was signed by President Jose Mujica on 3 May,[18] and went into full effect on 5 August 2013.[19]

Adoption and family planning[edit]

Since September 2009, same-sex couples in a civil union can jointly adopt. The law enabling this was approved by the Chamber of Representatives on 28 August 2009 and by the Senate on 9 September 2009.[20][21] Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.[22]

17 out of 23 senators voted in favour of the move.[23] After the vote, Senator Margarita Percovich said: "It is a right for the boys and the girls, not a right for the adults. It streamlines the adoption process and does not discriminate".[24] Diego Sempol, a representative of the gay rights group, Black Sheep, said: "This law is a significant step toward recognizing the rights of homosexual couples".[25] Nicolas Cotugno, archbishop of Montevideo, had previously said it would be a "serious error to accept the adoption of children by homosexual couples", claiming it was "not about religion, philosophy or sociology. It's something which is mainly about the respect of human nature itself".[23] He also claimed: "The Church cannot accept a family made up of two people of the same sex. These are people who unite and live their life together, but the Church does not consider that a family. A child is not something you make. I don't want to be too harsh in my comment, but with all due respect, a child is not a pet".[22] Senator Francisco Gallinal of the National Party claimed: "The family is the bedrock of society and this measure weakens it. For us, allowing children to be adopted by same-sex couples is conditioning the child’s free will."[25]

Additionally, the same-sex marriage law approved in 2013 allows lesbian couples to access in vitro fertilisation.

Discrimination protections[edit]

Since 2003, incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and "sexual identity" has been prohibited. Also, article 149ter of the Penal Code provides for enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by "sexual orientation" or "sexual identity".[26][27] In 2004, an anti-discrimination law was passed to create an Honorary Commission to Combat Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and other forms of Discrimination, including sexual orientation and sexual identity discrimination. The Commission is intended to recommend laws to protect against various forms of discrimination.[28]

Military service[edit]

Since May 2009, gay and bisexual people have been allowed to serve openly in the military of Uruguay, after the Defence Minister signed a decree stating that military recruitment policy would no longer discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.[29]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

In October 2009, a law was passed allowing transgender people over the age of 18 to change their name and legal gender on official documents, so that it is in line with their gender identity.[30] [31] Since October 2018, sex reassignment surgery, hormone therapy or any form of diagnosis are not requirements to alter one's gender on official documents.[32]

In October 2018, the Uruguayan Parliament passed a law allowing minors to change legal gender with parental consent. The law also established a framework to revert past discriminatory state actions, including providing monetary reparations to transgender individuals persecuted during the Uruguayan Dictatorship (estimated to be around 50 people).[33] Furthermore, it mandates that transgender people receive 1 percent of public and private educational scholarships (see also "affirmative action"). The law stipulates the "free development of personality according to their chosen gender identity", and calls on the Government to ensure that transgender people are treated respectfully by authorities, included in housing programmes, have access to education, and are not denied health services.[34]

Besides male and female, Uruguayan identity documents are available with an "O" sex descriptor (for "Other"). One may also choose to leave their sex entry blank.[35]

Intersex rights[edit]

Article 22 of Law No. 19580 on violence against women based on gender (Ley N° 19580 de violencia hacia las mujeres basada en género), in force since January 2018, establishes the protocolization of interventions regarding intersex persons, prohibiting unnecessary medical procedures for children and teenagers.[36]

Conversion therapy[edit]

Adopted in 2017, the Law No. 19529 on Mental Health (Ley N° 19529 de Salud Mental) states that in no case a diagnosis can be made in the field of mental health on the exclusive basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[37]

Blood donation[edit]

Gay and bisexual men can donate blood in Uruguay, irrespective of the last time they had sex.[38]

Living conditions[edit]

The "Sexual Diversity Monument" in Montevideo. In the centre is a triangular prism, reading: Honrar la diversidad es honrar la vida. Montevideo por el respeto a todo género de identidad y orientación sexual. Año 2005.

Uruguay is regarded as a global leader in human rights and LGBT rights, with legislation in place protecting LGBT people from discrimination and allowing same-sex couples to wed and adopt. The "Gay Happiness Index" (GHI) published based on a 2015 poll by PlanetRomeo lists Uruguay at rank five with a GHI score of 73, on par with countries such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.[39] Societal acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships is very high, with a 2014 poll finding that about 71% of Uruguayans supported same-sex marriage (the highest in South America and the second highest in the Americas behind Canada).[40] Nevertheless, transgender people still face discrimination and stigma. According to the State Health Services Administration (ASSE), life expectancy for transgender people is just 45 years old. About two-thirds of transgender Uruguayans have reported being victim of physical violence.[41]

The Montevideo Pride parade has taken place annually since the 1990s. In 2018, the event was attended by an estimated 120,000 people.[42] It usually is celebrated on the last Friday of September, and has turned into one of Uruguay's largest public events. Other events include Punta Pride, held annually in Punta del Este in February. Montevideo is frequently referred to as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. There are several gay bars, restaurants and pubs in the city.[43]

Summary table[edit]

Unofficial flag of the Uruguayan LGBT community
Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1934)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1934)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2003)
Hate crime law includes sexual orientation and sexual identity Yes (Since 2003)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2008)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2013)
Adoption by single LGBT persons Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2009)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2009)
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2009)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2009)
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures Yes (Since 2018)
Third gender option Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes (Since 2013)
Conversion therapy banned on minors Yes (Since 2017)
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth Yes (Since 2013)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned regardless of sexual orientation)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Uruguay Named Most LGBT-friendly Country In Latin America, NewNowNext, 26 October 2016
  2. ^ "Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes". Pew Research Center. 13 November 2014. Archived from the original on 11 April 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  3. ^ (in Spanish) Homosexualidad en la historia de Uruguay.- Por José Pedro Barrán
  4. ^ (in Spanish) Codigo Penal Archived 6 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Uruguayan Pres. To Sign Gay Unions Bill". 19 December 2007. Archived from the original on 20 December 2007.
  6. ^ "Uruguay's President grants legal rights for gay couples". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Civil Unions Begin Next Week In Uruguay". 28 December 2007. Archived from the original on 29 December 2007.
  8. ^ "Por primera vez Justicia uruguaya reconoce matrimonio homosexual". El Pais (Uruguay). 9 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Uruguay Recognizes Marriage of Gay Couple". OnTopMag. 10 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  10. ^ "Justicia uruguaya reconoció un matrimonio gay". Uruguay. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  11. ^ "Jueza afirmó que la ley ya habilita el matrimonio homosexual". El Observador. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  12. ^ (in Spanish) Frente promoverá ley para habilitar el matrimonio gay Archived 5 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ (in Spanish) Socialistas quieren debate sobre matrimonio gay Archived 22 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Argentine Neighbors Uruguay, Paraguay To Debate Gay Marriage". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Uruguay House Approves Gay Marriage Bill". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Huge News For Uruguay's LGBT Community". Huffington Post. 12 December 2012.
  17. ^ "Uruguay Congress Votes to Legalise Gay Marriage". BBC News. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Desde el 1° de agosto se podrán celebrar matrimonios gay". Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  20. ^ Uruguay lawmakers approve gay adoptions
  21. ^ Uruguay approves Latin America's first gay adoption law
  22. ^ a b "Uruguay to legalise gay adoptions". RTÉ. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  23. ^ a b "Uruguay allows same-sex adoption". BBC. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  24. ^ "Uruguay passes same-sex adoption law". CNN. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  25. ^ a b "Lawmakers in Uruguay Vote to Allow Gay Couples to Adopt". The New York Times. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  27. ^ Anonymous (15 July 2003). "Uruguay: Parliament Forbids Hate Speech and Violence Based on Sexual Orientation". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  28. ^ (in Spanish) Ley N° 17.817 Archived 26 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Uruguay To Lift Ban On Gays In The Military
  30. ^ "Uruguay approves sex change bill". 13 October 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2016 – via
  31. ^ (in Spanish) Ley Nº 18.620 DERECHO A LA IDENTIDAD DE GÉNERO Y AL CAMBIO DE NOMBRE Y SEXO EN DOCUMENTOS IDENTIFICATORIOS Archived 16 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ "Trans people in Uruguay can now self-identify their gender, without surgery". 19 October 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019 – via gaystarnews.
  33. ^ (in Spanish) Uruguay aprueba una ley de vanguardia para el bienestar de las personas trans, The New York Times, 19 October 2018
  34. ^ Schlanger, Zoë (22 October 2018). "Trans rights are under threat in the US, but Uruguay is massively expanding them".
  36. ^ "Ley N° 19580 de violencia hacia las mujeres basada en género". Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  37. ^ "Ley N° 19529 de Salud Mental" (in Spanish). Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  38. ^ (in Spanish) Donación de sangre y homosexualidad: Restricciones vigentes y cambios en la regulación
  39. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Planet Romeo
  40. ^ (in Spanish) Costa Rica lidera índices de apoyo al matrimonio gay en Centroamérica; 10° a nivel regional
  41. ^ Uruguay: A Global Leader for LGBTI Rights
  42. ^ (in Spanish) Miles de personas en la Marcha de la Diversidad por la Avenida 18 de Julio
  43. ^ Gay Guide To Montevideo, Uruguay

External links[edit]