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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women examines reports of Uruguay

Committee on the Elimination
of Discrimination against Women

14 July 2016

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the eighth to ninth periodic reports of Uruguay on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Ricardo González Arenas, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that, over the previous years, the legislative framework in Uruguay had been further improved, including vis-à-vis  gender issues.  Uruguay had been dealing with violence in any form, be it domestic, institutional, workplace or everyday violence.  Mariella Mazzotti, Director of the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES), informed that in 2007, the Law on the Equality of Opportunities and Rights had been accepted, creating the National Coordinator of Public Policies for the Equality of Gender.  The first priority was to secure lives free of gender-based violence, which was still prevalent and a matter of serious concern.  An inter-sectorial approach was being undertaken amongst various Ministries, and the Ministry of the Interior and the Public Prosecutor had stepped up and established dedicated offices to address gender violence.  Uruguay was deeply committed to enforcing the legislation on sexual and reproductive health, and was ready to address the existing shortages of qualified gynaecologists. 

In the ensuing dialogue, Committee Experts wanted to hear more about the authority, budget and staffing of INMUJERES and its relationship with other parts of the Government.  Training of judges and court personnel, as well as access to justice for women, including disadvantaged women, was discussed at length.  Experts also raised the issues of still prevalent domestic violence, femicides and combating negative stereotypes, including in the media.  Questions were asked about the harmonization of different pieces of legislation and the draft Penal Code, reparation for women victims of the dictatorial regime, laws on prostitution, as well as the efforts by the State party to combat trafficking in human beings and support victims.  Experts commended Uruguay for reaching very high literacy rates among women – 99 per cent, and for a high rate enrolment of girls in universities, and asked what was being done to encourage them to choose non-traditional field of study and so do away with persistent gender segregation in education.  The delegation was also asked about measures taken to promote educational and employment opportunities for women of African descent and steps taken to accelerate the formalization of domestic work sector which largely employed women.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Arenas expressed hope that the delegation met the expectations of the Committee, and said that Uruguay stood ready to provide all additional information on the functioning of human rights mechanisms in the country.

The delegation of Uruguay included representatives of the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry for Social Development, the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES), the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Appellate Court, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the representatives of the Parliament and the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Friday, 15 July, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined sixth to seventh periodic reports of Mali (CEDAW/C/MLI/6-7).


The combined eighth to ninth periodic reports of Uruguay can be read here: CEDAW/C/URY/8-9.
Presentation of the Report

RICARDO GONZÁLEZ ARENAS, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva, informed that in January 2015, the combined eighth to ninth periodic reports had been submitted, and in March 2016, responses had been provided to the list of issues.  Uruguay was committed to the multilateral system for human rights protection: the country had ratified all relevant international human rights instruments and had extended an open invitation to all special procedures who wanted to visit.  Uruguay had also completed two cycles of the Universal Periodic Review.  Over the previous eight years, the legislative framework in Uruguay had been further improved, including vis-à-vis  gender issues.  Uruguay had been dealing with violence in any form, be it domestic, institutional, workplace or everyday violence. The country was ready to acknowledge weaknesses which still existed, and in that context the dialogue with the Committee was deemed as being most useful.

MARIELLA MAZZOTTI, Director of the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES), stated that the support of various parts of the United Nations System to Uruguay’s achievements was very much appreciated.  A secular State, Uruguay guaranteed numerous social rights.  In 2007, the Law on the Equality of Opportunities and Rights had been accepted, creating the National Coordinator of Public Policies for the Equality of Gender.  The first priority was to secure lives free of gender violence, followed by the right of equal access to education, right to healthy life, right to employment, etc.  Specific advisers had been contracted to provide a top-notch gender perspective to public bodies.   The National Institute for Women (INMUJERES) was the key organ for gender equality.  Activities in the field were decentralized and conducted through various groups, including those of rural women and women of African descent.  The National System of Care, approved in November 2015, was one of the key pillars of social protection in the country.

Gender violence was prevalent and a matter of serious concern.  Social mobilization was continuously ongoing, but one woman still died of violence every 16 days.  An inter-sectorial approach was being undertaken amongst various Ministries, and the Ministry of the Interior and the Public Prosecutor had stepped up and established dedicated offices to address gender violence.  The Action Plan 2016-2019 for a Life Free of Gender Violence on an Intergenerational Basis had been developed, and all of the institutions had been involved.  INMUJERES, for example, was working on protocols for electronic tagging of perpetrators.  Greater protection was provided for victims, whose access to justice and reparations were guaranteed.  Further progress needed to be made on the change of the patriarchal culture, which sustained the practice of gender-based violence. Uruguay had also started to develop policies to thoroughly address trafficking in women.

Ms. Mazzotti said that much was still left to be desired regarding fighting stereotypes and providing same opportunities for persons with disabilities, those of African descent, and sexual minorities.  Efforts, through different platforms, were underway to train teenagers to respect and uphold all human rights and prevent violence.  Unfortunately, Uruguay continued to experience insufficient representation of women in the executive and the Parliament, while there seemed to still be a glass ceiling for women in both business and academic worlds.  On the whole, nonetheless, women in Uruguay were better educated than men, but the wage gap still persisted.  The Government had a holistic approach to public health.  Uruguay was deeply committed to enforcing the legislation on sexual and reproductive health, and was ready to address the existing shortages of qualified gynecologists.  A cross-cutting approach was needed to provide support to the women of African descent.  INMUJERES very much took into consideration the rights and needs of women with disabilities.  Uruguay was aware of its shortcomings and was ready to work on them.  Significant progress, overall, had been made when it came to forging an inter-institutional approach to all of the listed issues. 

Questions from Experts

An Expert asked about the incorporation of the Convention in Uruguay’s legal order and its applicability in courts.  Were all articles of the Convention directly applicable, including the one on defining discrimination?  Had the Convention been invoked in courts?

Information was sought on the enforceability of the draft Bill on Gender Equality.  It was very important to provide clear legal avenues, as it enabled women to access justice.  Women seemed to have to first go to administrative courts and only then to civil courts for reparations. If procedures were long and complicated, was the system of legal aid sufficient to support those women who needed it?

The Expert inquired about negative stereotypes in courts, which seemed to better protect the rights of men in cases of violence against women.  Should courses on gender in the judiciary be made mandatory, given that many more women than men attended?

Question was asked about a periodic review of laws to ensure that they did not contain discriminatory provisions.

Replies by the Delegation

With regard to the judicial system, the delegation explained that the definition of discrimination, as per the Convention, had the status of an ordinary law, given that Uruguay had ratified the Convention in 1981.  The Convention was taken into account in court rulings.  Courts across the board had invoked provisions of the Convention in their written rulings.  A draft Bill on Equality included the Convention’s definition of discrimination. 

Any person could come before the courts, which had the system of automatic, free-of-charge representation.  The victim would go to a police station or the Ministry of the Interior office, and then be connected to a judge on duty. The police and the judiciary would become immediately involved if there was a case of violence against women.  Being a small country and having 400 court offices across its territory, Uruguay provided relatively easy access to justice to most of its citizens. 

In terms of capacity building, a delegation explained that in 2011, the judiciary had taken a number of important decisions on training its staff in order to familiarize them with the Convention.   The Gender Unit and the Judicial School were both involved in training of those wanting to join the judiciary or already employed in the branch.  Uruguay cooperated with Spain and Argentina in the area of training.  Judges throughout the country could be easily trained. Since 2011, a system had been in place to have all current and future judges attend mandatory gender trainings.  More than 65 percent of judges in Uruguay were women, which was why their presence in trainings was dominant.

The National Gender Council coordinated and advised on policies, and had managed to strengthen its interdisciplinary team in spite of the budgetary challenges.

On the revision of laws, it was explained that there was no institutional body as such specifically tasked with it.  In the legislative, for example, there was a women’s caucus, which looked at draft bills and provided comments if it identified provisions detrimental to women.

Questions from Experts

A Committee Expert acknowledged that Uruguay had achieved a respectable status in the field of human rights.  Who represented and introduced women’s issues to the cabinet, she asked.  The delegation was asked for details on the reform of the Ministry of Social Development, and whether there were plans to make INMUJERES independent. 

Turning to the mainstreaming of gender issues, the Expert asked whether it was mandatory to set it up in departments and municipalities, and how that was ensured.

Another Expert raised the issue of temporary special measures, and asked whether the State party was planning to apply the electoral quota system at both national and sub-national levels.  Eight percent of positions in governmental and judicial institutions were supposed be filled with persons of African descent, which was commendable.  What was the percentage of women of African descent who had been appointed to such posts?  Was the State party planning to use temporary special measures to deal with the gender pay gap or women’s underrepresentation in the diplomatic service?

Replies by the Delegation

A delegate explained that INMUJERES was managed by the Ministry of Social Development, and was defined as a governing body.  It had a political and technical authority to be in touch with the highest echelons of power.  INMUJERES was, admittedly, not presented in the Council of Ministers, and a change in the rank of the institution had been raised on a number of occasions, but no consensus could have been achieved.  Gender issues for Uruguay were internationally addressed by INMUJERES, which was also acknowledged by the President.  The National Institute for Women, with its constitutional autonomy, had regular contacts with various departmental and municipal bodies, and thus operated throughout the national territory. 

Uruguay had difficulties implementing the act on appointing men and women of African descent to public posts.  More progress was needed in that regard, as their representation had barely reached one percent, two-thirds of whom were men.  The law on youth employment had given better results for young women, including those of African descent and transgender persons.

There had been political consensus in 2014 and 2015 to implement electoral quotas for women.  Electoral rules were decided on by a two-third majority, for which cross-party support was needed.  Awareness-raising programmes on gender equality in politics often stemmed from civil society organizations, and several campaigns had also been organized by the institutional machinery. 

In a follow-up question, an Expert voiced confusion over some parts of Uruguay’s periodic reports, which seemed to be difficult to comprehend.  She stressed that devolution of power to departments and municipalities should not affect the State party’s duty to comply with its international obligations. INMUJERES needed liaison with all government agencies.  Another Expert inquired whether INMUJERES required budgetary autonomy and whether it had all the funds necessary for its work.

The delegation acknowledged the need to improve Uruguay’s approach to reporting.  Institutional changes ought to be properly reflected in reports, and efforts in that regard would be reinforced.  

The executive and the legislative branches had not addressed the status of INMUJERES any further; as it stood now, the existing situation was the best Uruguay could do for the time being.  Some difficulties had been encountered with the institutional framework, so INMUJERES had tried to include all executive institutional structures, the Supreme Court and the Parliament, with the view of fostering an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders.

It was explained that departmental autonomy in no way impacted Uruguay’s compliance with its international obligations. The delegation agreed that regular periodic reporting structure was a preferred approach over combining several reports together. 

Questions by Experts

An Expert noted that there was a national plan in place to combat domestic violence. What measures had been taken to penalize rape in marriage or cohabitation?

A draft Penal Code had been tabled in 2014, but, as a result of a strong institutional pressure by women’s organizations, it had been sent for a further review.  Could the delegation comment on those organizations’ complaints, and inform what changes had been introduced after it had been reconsidered?  The delegation was also asked to provide information on the measures taken to eliminate discrimination and harassment against sexual and gender minorities.

There still seemed to be division of jobs taken between men and women, in line with traditional roles, the Expert noted.

Another Expert praised Uruguay as a beacon in Latin America when it came to openness and progressiveness.   She asked about specific programmes for rural women and women of African descent to address stereotypes and discriminatory conduct. The State party was commended for creating an office on gender and domestic violence.  It was regrettable to note that domestic violence and femicides persisted.  What was the State party doing to overcome those problems?

The report contained no information on the effectiveness on the 2006-2007 legislation on violence against women.  What were the numbers of victims and perpetrators, especially if compared with the period before that legislation? How many women had been provided assistance, and were there any areas in the country not reached by support services?  What measures was the State party taking to ensure justice for women who had been victims of the dictatorial regime in the 1970s and the 1980s?

The Expert noted the lack of information on prostitution.  Was it legal and were there measures to protect prostitutes against exploitation and violence?  There was also no information on efforts to integrate women victims of trafficking into society.  Migrant women seemed to face obstacles receiving necessary work documents and frequently ended up being sexually exploited and trafficked. 

Replies by the Delegation

Civil society organizations had launched objections to the draft Penal Code over what they called stereotypical language. It was thus considered a retrograde piece of legislation.  The Government had eventually agreed with some of the comments by civil society.  The current Chamber of Representatives had implemented a programme on advocacy and opportunities to hear inputs from academia, civil society, jurists and others, all with the view of receiving opinions of all stakeholders.  It was believed that the outcome of the debate would help build political consensus on the document which made a major step in the way justice was implemented.

The delegation stated that in 2004 there had been only four courts in Montevideo dealing with domestic violence; now there was a total of eight such tribunals across the country.  The number of cases heard had consequently significantly increased.  Whenever a woman went to the court to ask for her rights to be restored, the Public Prosecutor Office would be involved in criminal proceedings, were such actions needed.

Regarding trafficking, seminars and trainings were provided in strategic areas.  Uruguay had an inquisitorial legal system, explained a delegate and said  it was a good approach to prosecute those involved in increasingly sophisticated crimes.  The Public Prosecutor’s Office assisted in searching for evidence. 

The authorities were working on a draft Bill on Trafficking, which would place emphasis on the protection of victims and witnesses.  Specific protocols for action had been developed within the Ministry of the Interior.  Psycho-social support services were currently provided to the victims of trafficking, and temporary housing was also available. Victims could also have access to necessary provisions. Work was being done jointly with civil society organizations which had experience in the field. An increase had been observed in the number of reported cases of trafficking.  Femicide would soon be criminalized as a separate crime.

The delegation said that the Act on Sex Work had been set up by a representative group, including women’s representatives and female sex workers.  One weakness was the lack of union organizations among sex workers; another was that of sanctions.  The National Registrar of Sex Workers was currently with the police, which was seen as stigmatizing.

On the issue of stereotypes, the delegation stated that there was a code of ethics in place for the national television channel.  It covered issues such as gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.  An egalitarian approach between genders was being promoted, but stereotypes were difficult to change.  There was an initial acknowledgment that Uruguayans of African descent had been historically discriminated against.  In the Law on Youth Employment, specific quotas were sought for young women, transgender persons and those of African descent.  Efforts had been made to make easier issuance and modification of identity documents for transgender persons.
Uruguay was a country open to equality, but Uruguayans, at the same time, were rather conservative, which presented a challenge.

There were expectations that a new comprehensive legal act would soon be passed in the Parliament which would cover various forms of gender-based violence.  All forms of violence experienced by girls, women, elderly women, sexual harassment in the workplace etc. would be covered by the new legislation. 

Turning to HIV/AIDS, the delegation said that infections, which had been on the increase until 2013, had since been decreasing.  The most vulnerable population – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – were the priority for public health institutions. 

Some very tiny rural areas were admittedly difficult to reach by health services  notwithstanding the existence of mobile health teams.  

The delegation stated that Uruguay’s open-door policy towards migrants had a human-rights based approach.  In 2014, a law had been enacted allowing some 9,500 permanent residence documents to be issued since.    The right to remain was now granted to those who had resided in the country in an irregular way.   Uruguay provided equal opportunities to Uruguayans and non-Uruguayans when it came to access to health services, for example.  Information for migrants was available on governmental websites.  The State was committed to providing protection for all.

In the early years of democracy, following the dictatorship, Uruguay had passed laws on declaring political protection null and void.  With the changing governments, Uruguay had seen the statute of limitations waived, and numerous prosecutions of both civilians and military had since taken place.  The closed doors of the military had remained closed, which had made the collection of evidence as difficult as ever.  To date, 407 cases had been awarded monetary reparations.   

An Expert, in a follow-up, asked if the code of ethics for the media made a reference to positive stereotypes, in addition to listing negative ones.  Clarification was requested on the reduction of the INMUJERES’s division dealing with domestic violence.   Views of the delegation were requested on the system of electric tagging for domestic violence perpetrators.  Information was also asked on perceived contradictions between upcoming penal codes.

The delegation clarified that there had been no reduction in the budget for gender-based violence.  There had been some internal restructuring in INMUJERES, but without budgetary decreases.  Protective measures including electronic tagging had had excellent results.

Clarifying the legal situation, the delegation stressed that there was no inconsistency between the 2002 Law on Domestic Violence and the Penal Code, the amendments to which were being currently debated.  All elements of gender-based violence, including femicide and sexual abuses, would be included in the future Penal Code. 

Questions from Experts

A Committee Expert asked whether Uruguay intended to adopt quotas to increase participation of women in political and public life, adopt other positive measures to change societal attitudes in relation to roles played in the family and society by both women and men, and engage in long-lasting awareness measures to encourage women to stand as candidates in elections.  The delegation was asked about the intentions to further bolster the functioning of the mechanisms for the promotion of advancement of women, about outcome of measures taken to increase political participation of women of African descent and indigenous women, and also what steps would be taken to foster the participation of women in the judiciary and the foreign service.

Another Expert took up the issue of stateless women who were not refugees or asylum seekers and asked whether the draft law on statelessness would be presented to the Parliament and when.

Replies by the Delegation

In terms of political participation and representation of women, Uruguay was below the regional averages and also below its own expectations given that its women had acquired political rights decades ago.  In the judiciary, 70 per cent of the officials were women, who also represented 63 per cent of the judges, while the radical changes had happened in the Supreme Court, where the number of women judges had increased from none twenty years earlier to 20 per cent today.  It was important to note that 70 per cent of the judicial trainees were females.

The National Women Institute was a nation-wide institution which operated as a steering body for gender policy.  Its Department for Women of African Descent aimed to correct past injustices suffered by that group of women.  The Department had in place leadership programmes to promote the role and participation of women of African descent and so enable them to play a role in public and political services.  Uruguay was a great champion in bringing about greater participation of women in decision-making roles in the public or professional spheres, which it strived to achieve by linking equality and gender policies.  Uruguay protected women from sexual harassment, believed in equal pay for equal work and put in place the system of child care to enable women to strike a better professional and family life balance.

Uruguay was currently developing a draft bill on statelessness in cooperation with all stakeholders and with the support of the United Nations Refugee Agency.  Despite the lack of legal provisions to regulate this issue, stateless persons were provided with temporary identification documents and temporary travel documents.

Currently, there were 221 Uruguayan diplomats serving abroad, of whom 88 were women.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been male-dominated in the past, but the professionalization of the Foreign Service, which had made the entry possible only through competitive exams, led to a greater number of women joining the Service.  The representation of women in the lower ranks was satisfactory, but women were still to reach higher ranks.

Questions from Experts

An Expert noted that the literacy rate in Uruguay had reached almost 99 per cent and the enrolment of girls in University was at high levels, but the concern remained about gender segregation in education, with women joining traditionally female professions such as teaching or nursing.  What measures were in place to encourage girls to choose the non-traditional field of study and were awareness campaigns in place to change gender stereotypes in education and so broaden education opportunities for women?  In the academia, 70 per cent of higher posts were held by men, and the delegation was asked about obstacles women faced in the professional development and promotion in the academic sector, particularly in leadership positions.

There was a need to better understand why measures taken so far to address gender pay gaps were not successful, said another Expert, and noted that, despite the adoption of the Law on Domestic Work, more than half of domestic workers in 2013 had not been formalized and were not part of the social protection system.  The Expert asked the delegation about the composition of domestic workers in Uruguay, in terms of their ethnic origin, gender and age, about the application in practice of the law on labour inspection, and about temporary special measures put in place to improve the situation of people of African descent.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that women were better integrated in the formal education system and stayed longer in education than men; when choosing the field of study, a large number of women opted for traditional studies related to social work or medicine.  Although there were fewer women in non-traditional areas, the number of women who enrolled and completed such studies was on the increase which indicated that greater number of younger women was opting for a career in fields such as agronomy, engineering and other science fields.  Adolescents could access guidance services and information on educational opportunities in all fields of studies.  There were no objective obstacles to women choosing non-traditional careers, but such decisions were deeply rooted in cultural backgrounds, and it took time to change those.  The National Institute for Vocational Training promoted inclusion of women in non-traditional sectors and provided training seminars in those sectors.

Domestic work was a sector which largely employed women: 98 per cent of those who carried out remunerated domestic work were women, and more than a quarter were women of African descent.  Uruguay continued with the formalization of the sector and regular inspections for compliance by those who employed domestic workers.  Unions and associations of domestic workers carried out activities to raise the awareness of domestic workers that they should be covered in the social security system by their employers.  Inspection of domestic services was very difficult because domestic work was invisible and took place inside a home, which authorities could not access unless there was a complaint.  That was why most inspection activities of domestic work took place on the basis of complaints, including complaints of trafficking for purposes of labour exploitation.
In follow-up questions, a Committee Expert noted the complaint filed by the National Union of Women Care Givers with the International Labour Organization about the non-recognition of employment rights by the State for foster mother care givers and asked how that conflict was resolved.  Experts also asked about the application of parental leave, efforts to diversity employment opportunities for women of African descent; further steps which would be taken to formalize domestic work, especially by enabling women to file complaints without fear of being fired; and whether there was a strategy in place to encourage men to work in the care giving sector.

Responding, a delegate said that men tended to make more money than women and that was one of the factors that explained why parental leave was usually taken by women.  There was a need to make the caregiving profession more attractive in order to increase the proportion of men engaged therein.  A major overhaul of the curriculum and a degree course in the Law Faculty was taking place at the moment, in order to make it competency based.  The entry into force of the new Code of Criminal Procedure would also have a major impact on the legal training, particularly by  a greater inclusion of human rights instruments.

Questions from Experts

An Expert welcomed the measures to increase access of women to health services such as the adoption of the law on voluntary termination of pregnancy and the access to maternity and paternity benefits, and in particular commended very low maternal mortality rates.  Still, some gaps in the access to health services remained because of persistent socioeconomic and geographic barriers, while pregnancy rates among teenagers were on the increase.  What specific measures were being taken to guarantee access to safe abortion to all women who required it?

The delegation acknowledged difficulties in addressing the specific situation of rural women, and a Committee Expert commended Uruguay for such openness and also for adopting highly sustainable social policies.  What steps were being taken to ensure that women from rural and remote areas had the information and training needed to access  credits and loans and so use those effective tools for their empowerment?  What measures were taken to guarantee women’s access to land in patriarchal societies, and what specific measures would be taken to increase awareness of rural women themselves about their rights in relation to health, land, and access to credit?  How was intersectional discrimination addressed in law and in practice, including for women with disabilities and what was the situation of women in detention?  The Expert commended Uruguay for maintaining an open door policy for refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons, and asked about the support and protection provided to refugees from Colombia and Syria.

Replies by the Delegation

In response to the issues raised by the Experts, a delegate said that primary health centres were present throughout the country, including in remote and rural areas, in which primary health care was provided through mobile clinics.  There was indeed a concern about teenage pregnancies as adolescent health was one of the key priorities in the national health strategy.  Teenagers had access to contraceptives and could use reproductive health services without a presence of responsible adult, in full confidence and confidentiality.  The Social Welfare Bank provided special attention to pregnant teenagers, who could access all necessary health services.  Teenage pregnancies were prevalent among poor and disadvantaged sectors of the population.

Women had access to loans and land; there were sometimes issues in distribution of land, as a result of traditions.  A draft bill for rural women was being prepared, and the work was ongoing with rural women associations to raise the awareness about their rights and to support various forms of entrepreneurship.  Access to land was a matter of private property which had nothing to do with gender. 

Concerning women in detention, a delegate explained that the Ministry of the Interior applied a specific guideline which integrated gender considerations and ensured a more dignified treatment of detainees, while conditions of detention were being improved since 2012.  Children up to the age of four could stay in detention facilities with their mothers, which could be extended for another four years.  At the moment, there were 567 women deprived of liberty in Uruguay and they were accommodated in two specific detention units for women, while those with children stayed in a separate facility.  Uruguay paid attention to the rights of children whose parents were in detention and ensured that older children could visit their mothers under humane and dignified conditions.  The Parliament had recently adopted a decision to set up the Institute for Social Inclusion of Adolescents, which would also take care of adolescents deprived of liberty, with the accent on their social inclusion.  At the moment, there were 24 adolescents deprived of liberty.

Uruguay had signed a framework agreement with the United Nations Refugee Agency for the resettlement of refugees, under which Uruguay committed to receiving and protecting those fleeing conflict and ensuring their integration in the society.  To date, 109 refugees – Colombian and Syrian – had been resettled.   

Questions from Experts

With regards to family and marriage issues, an Expert asked the delegation to clarify the provisions of the Law 19119 of 2013 on parental rights of grandparents in relation to grandchildren born to their adolescent children. 

What was the status of the initiative to expressly prohibit mediation in cases involving domestic violence in the Mediation Protocol? 

What was considered as “assets to be equally distributed” in divorce or dissolution of unregistered partnership, and how the non-financial contribution of women to the marital assets – legally recognized in Uruguay – was considered?

Replies by the Delegation

Uruguay had been making changes in age of marriage and in 2014 had raised the age of marriage from 12 for girls, and 14 for boys, to 16 for both girls and boys.  Uruguay was aware that that was not sufficient and aimed to raise the age to 18 for boys and girls, although there was a resistance to that as the society believed that young people aged 16 to 18 should be able to marry.  That was particularly the case among the rural population, and rural girls were more likely to be married before the age of 16. 

Mediation was prohibited in cases involving gender-based violence.

The law provided for equal division of assets and liabilities between the two parties in case of dissolution of a union, and there was still a need to ensure that the law was fully applicable in civil unions and unmarried couples, where women tended to lose out.  As far as children born to adolescent parents were concerned, a delegate explained that mothers aged 16 and over could recognize the child and would therefore have parental rights; the guardianship of children born to younger mothers was granted to grandparents.

Concluding Remarks

RICARDO GONZÁLEZ ARENAS, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed hope that the delegation of Uruguay, composed by a myriad of institutions and agencies, met the expectations of the Committee, and said that Uruguay stood ready to provide all additional information on the functioning of human rights mechanisms in the country.

YOKO HAYASHI, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and encouraged Uruguay to take all necessary measures to address the various recommendations made by the Committee.
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