Uruguay is not ranked in the 2012 SIGI due to missing data for one or more SIGI variables. The country was ranked 14th out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) score for the country is 0.783, placing it in 48th place (out of 187 countries). The Gender Inequality Index score is 0.352. Uruguay’s Global Gender Gap Index rating for 2011 is0.6907, placing it in 58th place (out of a total of 135 countries).

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Under the Civil Code, the legal minimum age for marriage is only 12 years for women and 14 years for men.[1]  Both males and females under the age of 18 required consent from a parent or guardian to marry.[2] With respect to status of children born to those who marry early, the Code of Childhood and Adolescence, enacted in 2004, establishes that the women aged 12 and the males aged 14, unmarried, can validly acknowledge their children. However, guardianship is exercised as of age 18.[3]

The United Nation reports, based on 1996 data that 13 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed in Uruguay, compared to 4 percent of boys in the same age range. In 1975, 12 percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage has remained at similar levels.[4] The adolescent fertility rate is 63 births per 1000 women aged 15-19.[5]

There is no information available about the legal status of polygamy in Uruguay.

Women and men in Uruguay have the same legal rights and responsibilities in regard to parental authority under the Civil Code.[6] Under the Civil Equality law, both spouses are obligated to contribute to household expenses, in proportion to their economic means.[7] The government reported in 2007 that discriminatory attitudes continue to perpetuate the stereotype of the mother as the primary carer of children.[8]

Women have greater rights than men in relation to divorce. Divorce can be sought from a judge by giving specified reasons, by mutual consent or by the will of the wife alone without reason.[9] However, the Civil Code in Uruguay discriminates against women by prohibiting widowed or divorced women from remarrying for a period of 300 days from the death of the husband or the date of the divorce.[10]

Under the Civil Code, women and men have equal inheritance rights in Uruguay.[11]  The law provides that both spouses and descendants have rights to inherit the property of the deceased, regardless of gender.[12]

[1] CLADEM et al (2008) [2] CEDAW (1999) p.72 [3] CLADEM et al (2008) [4] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) [5] World Economic Forum (2010) p.308 [6] CEDAW (2007) p.80 [7] CEDAW (1999) p.12 [8] CEDAW (2007) p.80 [9] CEDAW (1999) p.71 [10] CLADEM et al (2008) [11] FAO (n.d.) [12] FAO (n.d.) 

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

The Penal Code criminalises rape, however marital rape is not specifically prohibited.[13] The law allows for sentences of 2 to 12 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators.[14] 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.[15] The Penal Code was amended in 1995 to make domestic violence a distinct offence. Further, legislation was introduced in 2002 on the prevention, early detection and eradication of domestic violence.[16] The law allows for sentences of 6 months to 2 years in prison for a person found guilty of committing an act of violence or making continued threats to cause bodily injury to persons related emotionally or legally to the perpetrator.[17] According to the US Department of State, sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited by law, punishable by fines or dismissal.[18]

Despite these provisions, there are some shortcomings in the laws protecting women from violence. The Penal Code provides for acquittal in the case of “crimes of passion” committed after the victim’s adultery. By contrast, women found guilty of killing their husbands after being subjected to significant psychological pressure and physical violence are often imprisoned for aggravated murder.[19]

Violence against women is commonplace in Uruguay. In 2007, the government reported that every nine days a woman or girl dies of domestic violence.[20] In 2009, the Ministry of Interior reported 13,712 cases of domestic violence during the year, up 10 percent from 2008.[21] According to Ministry of Interior statistics, there were 302 rape cases during 2009.[22]

A key challenge to effectively addressing violence against women is the lack of enforcement of laws. According to the US Department of State, judges most often issued restraining orders in cases of domestic violence which were difficult to enforce.[23] Further, the judiciary does not have sufficient resources or training to ensure the law on domestic violence is effectively implemented. While the specialist domestic violence courts are a positive development, there are only four courts based in the capital city which means that women outside this area have limited access.[24] Further, there is a lack of support services for victims of domestic violence, including shelters and counselling services.[25]

According to the US Department of State, trafficking is a problem in Uruguay with women, girls and some boys trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. Women and children were most often trafficked to Argentina and Brazil. Some women were trafficked to Spain and Italy through the use to false job offers. The 2008 immigration law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, with sentences ranging from four to 16 years.[26]

Female genital mutilation is reportedly not practiced in Uruguay.

Limitations on women’s reproductive rights also infringes upon women’s physical integrity in Uruguay. Under the Criminal Code, abortion is generally illegal in Uruguay except to save the woman’s life or health and in the cases of rape or incest. [27]   

There is a lack of precise data on abortions, although Uruguay is believed to have a high rate of illegal abortions. The most conservative estimates indicate that there are at least as many abortions as live births.[28]

The World Economic Forum reports that 77 percent of married women use contraception.[29] Despite these statistics, CLADEM, a non-government women’s organisation, claims that the estimated abortion rate (38 percent) suggests that greater efforts are needed to improve access to contraception, particularly in rural areas.[30]

[13] CEDAW (2008) p.4 [14] US Department of State (2010) [15] CEDAW (2007) p.22 [16] CEDAW (2007) p.6 [17] US Department of State (2010) [18] US Department of State (2010) [19] CEDAW (2007) p.22 [20] CEDAW (2007) p.9 [21] US Department of State (2010) [22] US Department of State (2010) [23] US Department of State (2010) [24] CLADEM et al (2008) [25] CEDAW (2008) p.4 [26] US Department of State (2010) [27] United Nations Population Division (2011) [28] United Nations Population Division (2007) [29] World Economic Forum (2010) p.308 [30] CLADEM et al (2008)

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Uruguay. With respect to access to education, the World Economic Forum reports that Uruguay has reached gender parity in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrolments which suggests that there is no preferential treatment of sons with respect to education.[31] However, in 2008, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women expressed concern about the high repetition rate of girls in primary school and dropout rates in secondary school, particularly among rural and Afro-descendant women. [32] This suggests that there may be preferential treatment of sons with respect to education in these populations.

The Central Intelligence Agency reports that Uruguay has a male/female sex ratio for the total population of 0.93.

There is no evidence to suggest that Uruguay is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[31] World Economic Forum (2010) p.308 [32] CEDAW (2008) p.6

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

There is very limited data regarding women’s ownership rights in Uruguay. There are no reported legal restrictions on women’s access to land. In 1999, the government reported that the female workers on rural farms share in the legal proprietorship of the land on which the farm is situated.[33]

Since, the civil equality law introduced in 1946, women have the same rights as men to administer and dispose of their own property, irrespective of their marital status.[34]

Men and women have equal legal access to bank loans, but some discriminatory attitudes within financial institutions are reported to exist, creating barriers for women accessing credit.[35] Government data indicates that slightly more women than men benefit from rural microcredit programmes.[36]

[33] CEDAW (1999) p.65 [34] CEDAW (1999) p.12 [35] CEDAW (2007) p.75 [36] CEDAW (2007) p.77

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

There are no reported legal restrictions on women’s freedom of access to public space s in Uruguay. However, as described in the Physical Integrity section, the threat of violence and trafficking in Uruguay impinges upon women’s freedom of movement.

The US Department of State reports that women participate actively in the political process and government in Uruguay.[37] However, women remain under-represented in decision-making roles. The World Economic Forum reports that women make up only 15 per cent of Uruguay’s parliamentarians and 21 percent of Ministerial positions.[38]

With respect to women’s participation in the labour market, Article 1 of Law 16,045 prohibits any discrimination that violates the principle of equal treatment and opportunities for both sexes in any sector or branch of labour activity.[39] Uruguay provides women 12 weeks paid maternity leave, paid at 100 percent of wages by the social security system.[40]

[37] US Department of State (2010) [38] World Economic Forum (2010) p.308 [39] CEDAW (2007) p.39 [40] World Economic Forum (2010) p.308


Uruguay gained independence as a nation in 1828. In the late early 1970s the government became controlled by the military. Civilian rule was not restored until 1985.[41] The World Bank classifies Uruguay as an upper middle-income country.[42]

Despite the introduction of laws and policies to promote gender equality such as equal opportunities legislation, domestic violence legislation and child protection legislation, the attainment of substantive gender equality in Uruguay remains stymied by continuing legal discrimination and persistent discriminatory attitudes.[43] While Uruguay has achieved gender parity in education, this has not translated to economic and political empowerment for women.[44] Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a significant issue and legal protection is weak in this area.[45] Further, women’s position is undermined by restricted reproductive rights leading to a high incidence of maternal mortality and increasing HIV/AIDS prevalence amongst women.[46]

Article 8 of the Constitution of Uruguay upholds the equality of all citizens, but does not specifically refer to gender equality. Uruguay ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981 and ratified the Optional Protocol in 2001.

In 2011, the Human Development Index for Uruguay was 0.783, placing the country at 48 out of 187 countries.[47] For the Gender Inequality Index Uruguay received a score of 0.352, placing the country at 62 out of 146 countries with data.[48] In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Uruguay 58 out of 135 countries in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, with a score of 0.6907 where 0 represents inequality and 1 represents equality.[49]

[41] Central Intelligence Agency (2011) [42] World Bank (n.d.) [43] CEDAW (2008) p.4 [44] World Economic Forum (2010) p.308 [45] CEDAW (2008) p.6 [46] CEDAW (2008) p.8 [47] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.127 [48] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.139 [49] World Economic Forum (2011) p.10


Central Intelligence Agency (2011) The World Factbook: Uruguay, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uy.html, accessed 19 January 2011.

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 29 February 2012.

CLADEM et al (2008) Shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Uruguay, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/CLADEMUruguay42.pdf, accessed 19 January 2011.

FAO (n.d.) Gender and Land Rights Database: Uruguay, available at http://www.fao.org/gender/landrights/, accessed 13 January 2010.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2007) Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Uruguay, Combined Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/URY/7, New York.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2008) Concluding Observations: Uruguay, CEDAW/C/URY/CO/7, New York.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (1999) Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Second and third periodic reports of States parties: Uruguay, CEDAW/C/URY/2-3, New York.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/Main.html, accessed 10 October 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (2010) Human Development Report 2010 Uruguay, online edition, available at  http://hdrstats.undp.org, accessed 11 January 2011.

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012.

United Nations Population Division Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2002) Abortion Policies, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/abortion/, accessed 13 January 2010.

US State Department (2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Uruguay, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136129.htm, accessed 19 January 2011.

World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Uruguay, available at http://data.worldbank.org/country/uruguay, accessed at 11 January 2011.

World Economic Forum (2010) Global Gender Gap Report 2010, available at http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2010.pdf, accessed 20 October 2010.

Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Missing Women: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: