Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations: Uruguay (2002).
Ms. Rosalyn Hazelle
Consideration of reports of States parties
Combined second and third periodic report
1. The Committee considered the combined second and third periodic report of Uruguay (CEDAW/C/URY/2-3) at its 541st and 542nd meetings, on 24 January 2002 (see CEDAW/C/SR.541 and 542).
I. Introduction by the State party
2. In introducing the periodic report, the representative of Uruguay noted that while her country's authorities had intended to send a representative with direct expertise in the gender area, that had regrettably not been possible, owing to budget cuts made as a result of the economic and financial problems that the country had recently experienced.
3. The representative went on to explain that, during the period between her country's submission of its initial report in 1985 and the present, there had been a steady evolution, and progress of various kinds had been made in the effective implementation of women's rights.
4. At the governmental level, progress had been made in several areas, including the establishment of the National Institute for Family and Women's Affairs, the Commission on Women's Rights in support of the Institute's activities, the Tripartite Commission on Equal Opportunities and Treatment in Employment and the Interministerial Commission responsible for designing and implementing policies to reduce domestic violence, as well as the enactment of supplementary norms relating to women workers in the public and private sectors who are pregnant or breastfeeding and the prohibition against their dismissal and, lastly, the implementation of various actions to improve health education, programmes to control teenage pregnancy, programmes on sexually transmitted diseases and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and cancer prevention programmes.
5. The representative also stated that in recent years there had been various parliamentary initiatives to promote women's rights, such as the establishment of the Commission on Women's Human Rights and the Commission on Gender and Equity.
6. The representative mentioned, in particular, the initiatives carried out by the Municipal Administration of Montevideo, which had, inter alia, established a Commission on Women to deal specifically with all questions relating to women; that had been the starting-point for similar actions in other municipal administrations throughout the country.
7. The representative also noted that while there had been issues on which final answers had not yet been reached, very intense debates had been opened up that would undoubtedly culminate in specific advances; among those issues were the establishment of the post of Ombudsman or Public Defender, and abortion, on which there were a number of initiatives that legislators were considering.
8. The representative pointed to a number of advances in the international arena, including the ratification of legal instruments, such as the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, in 1996, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in 2001.
9. The representative said it was regrettable that the progress cited had been insufficient, as various obstacles, particularly scarce resources, had slowed the implementation of the actions envisaged. For that reason, action by international organizations, such as international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), was of major importance, particularly on all issues relating to women; many of the advances made would not have been secured without their effective efforts. The representative also mentioned the actions carried out in the domestic violence area, with regard to both the national telephone service and shelters for victims, and the NGO studies, research and analyses which had yielded concrete data essential to diagnosing certain situations (ethnic minorities), thereby making it easier to resolve them and facilitating the Government's task.
10. Lastly, the representative stated that while much remained to be done, there were ever greater efforts to make equality of rights for women a reality, not only in the legislative area but also in practice.
II. Concluding comments of the Committee
11. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the Government of Uruguay on its second and third periodic report, while regretting the fact that the report does not comply with the Committee's guidelines. The Committee also notes with regret that the report contains no information either on the implementation of the Platform of Action or on steps taken by the Government to address the general recommendations of the Committee.
12. The Committee, while expressing its appreciation to the delegation and thanking the Deputy Permanent Representative for her oral presentation, regrets the descriptive and general nature of both the report and the discussion, as a result of which the Committee has not been afforded a complete picture of the legal and social status of women in Uruguay or of the progress made in the implementation of the Convention since the country prepared its initial report, considered in 1985.
13. The Committee commends the Government on its prompt ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
14. The Committee takes note of the fact that the Constitution guarantees the protection of the rights of women and men, as individuals and as groups, and that reference is made in particular to the right of
15. The Committee notes with satisfaction that Uruguayan women are highly educated and have a high rate of participation in the labour market, especially in judicial posts.
16. The Committee notes the importance of the National Programme for Women, established on 8 March 1995 as a national mechanism for promoting actions to improve the status of women. The Committee acknowledges with satisfaction the efforts of the Government of Uruguay to implement the Convention by initiating some programmes. The Committee notes that the Government has adopted the Platform of Action without reservations.
17. The Committee notes with satisfaction that the Citizen Security Act defines domestic violence as an offence and that Uruguay has signed the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (the Convention of Belém do Pará).
18. The Committee commends the Government on its initiative to encourage the participation of women's non-governmental organizations in programmes for the implementation of the Convention.
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention
19. The Committee notes that deep-rooted, stereotypical attitudes concerning the roles of men and women constitute an obstacle to the full implementation of the Convention.
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
20. While recognizing the existence of Act 16,045 of June 1989, whose article 1 prohibits discrimination which violates the principle of sexual equality in all sectors and branches of employment, the Committee expresses its concern at the lack of a definition of discrimination against women. The Committee notes that the Constitution also does not contain a definition of discrimination on grounds of sex.
21. The Committee recommends that a definition of discrimination against women, based on the definition contained in article 1 of the Convention, be incorporated into the Constitution and other legal norms. The definition should be formulated in such a way that the courts can easily apply it in cases of discrimination on grounds of sex.
22. The Committee expresses its concern that the National Institute for Family and Women's Affairs, as a national mechanism for the advancement of women, has no real power to initiate and implement regulatory measures designed to eliminate discrimination against women. The Committee is concerned at the hierarchical subordination of the national mechanism to the Ministry of Education and Culture and at its lack of financial and human resources.
23. The Committee recommends that the Government clearly define the mandates of the various institutions and commissions and the level of interaction between them. The Committee encourages the Government to carry out a restructuring of the national mechanism and to allocate to it the human and financial resources required to ensure the effective implementation of governmental policies and programmes for gender equality. The Committee recommends the immediate adoption of an equal opportunity plan which can place the National Programme for Women on a solid legal footing. It also encourages the Government to mainstream a gender perspective within all the ministries.
24. The Committee expresses concern at the continuing existence of stereotypes relating to the role of women in the family and society, and at deep-rooted attitudes and conduct based on the assumed superiority of men in many public and private spheres. It is a matter of concern to the Committee that the Government attaches little importance to this problem and thus encourages the persistence of such stereotypes, which are an obstacle to the implementation of the Convention.
25. The Committee urges the Government to adopt measures to eliminate social stereotypes in Uruguay. It urges the Government to concentrate on increasing women's participation in all areas, particularly decision-making, and on prevailing on men to share the housework. It urges the Government to strengthen its awareness-raising programmes, and to take action to change stereotyped attitudes and perceptions as to men's and women's roles and responsibilities.
26. The Committee expresses concern that, despite the efforts made in this respect, a comprehensive approach is not being taken towards the prevention and elimination of violence against women, particularly as regards domestic violence, crimes of honour and the punishment of offenders. The Committee notes that despite the legislative action taken under the Citizen Security Act violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a serious problem for Uruguayan society.
27. The Committee urges the Government to conduct a nationwide survey to determine how widespread violence against women is. It also urges the Government to assess the impact of the current measures to deal with the various forms of violence against women, as well as to adopt legislation against domestic violence without delay. Account must be taken of the underlying causes of violence against women, and domestic violence should be investigated with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of legislation, policies and programmes to combat it. The Committee also recommends that the Government continue the training and awareness-raising programmes for judicial personnel, law enforcement officials and members of the legal and health professions, as well as awareness-raising measures to ensure that society will not tolerate any form of violence against women. The Committee encourages the Government to strengthen its collaboration with civil society and non-governmental organizations with respect to violence against women, by ensuring budgetary funding levels commensurate with the high priority to be given to combating such violence.
28. The Committee expresses concern that the Penal Code still contains a number of provisions that discriminate against women, such as articles 116 and 328, concerning the marriage of rapists and their victims, and mitigating circumstances with respect to abortion.
29. The Committee calls on the Government to give priority to rescinding the above-mentioned articles of the Penal Code so as to bring the Code into line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, its general recommendations, and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.
30. The Committee notes that although Uruguayan women are highly educated and have a high rate of labour-market participation, this is not reflected in their employment, particularly with respect to private-sector pay. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned at the high proportion of women in the service sector, especially personal services, an area in which pay is traditionally low.
31. The Committee recommends that both in the public and in the private sector the Government endeavour to ensure strict compliance with labour legislation, and take action to eliminate discrimination in employment and with respect to pensions and private-sector pay, as well as promoting participation by women in sectors traditionally regarded as male.
32. The Committee is concerned at the low participation of women in politics and government administration, particularly as regards decision-making.
33. The Committee urges the Government to take appropriate action and implement broad strategies, including temporary special measures under article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, with a view to promoting greater participation by women in public life, particularly decision-making and promoting changes in attitudes and perceptions, held by both women and men, as regards their respective roles in the household, the family, at work and in society as a whole. In particular, the Committee recommends that the Government take account of general recommendations 21 and 23, concerning equality in marriage, family relations and public life, that it should strengthen and step up action to promote awareness of the importance of the role, activities and many contributions of women in the community and in the family, and that it should in general promote equality of men and women with respect to rights and opportunities.
34. The Committee notes with concern the high pregnancy rates among adolescents, and that young adolescents make up a high proportion of the group in question.
35. The Committee recommends that the Government examine the situation of adolescents as a matter of priority, and urges it to take action to ensure that effective reproductive and sexual health services are provided and that due attention is paid to the information requirements of adolescents, including through programmes and policies to provide information on the different kinds of contraceptives available and how they are to be obtained, on the basis of the principle that family planning is the responsibility of both the man and the woman. The Committee urges the Government to amend its legislation on pregnancy termination. It requests Uruguay to include in its next report information on the impact of programmes to reduce and prevent pregnancy among adolescents.
36. The Committee expresses concern that the Civil Code still contains provisions that discriminate against women.
37. The Committee urges the Government to actively promote the elimination of the discriminatory legal provisions that still exist, particularly in the Civil Code in matters relating to the family, and to bring Uruguayan legislation into line with the Convention.
38. The Committee expresses concern that Uruguayan women make little use of existing judicial resources for the protection and enjoyment of their rights, including the remedy of
39. The Committee suggests that in its next report Uruguay include more information on existing mechanisms and procedures that women can use in order to file judicial appeals on the basis of the Convention and the Optional Protocol, and that steps be taken to ensure that women are aware of their economic, political, civil and cultural rights. The Committee recommends that educational programmes on the Convention, the Optional Protocol and women's rights be introduced for the benefit of, for example, judicial personnel, law enforcement officials and lawyers responsible for the implementation of legislation. The Committee also recommends that additional steps be taken to increase the number of women occupying high positions in the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies.
40. The Committee urges the Government to accept as soon as possible the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention, concerning the length of the Committee's sessions.
41. The Committee asks the Government to respond in its next periodic report to the concerns set out in the present concluding comments, under article 18 of the Convention. It also urges the Uruguayan Government to draft its fourth and fifth reports in accordance with its guidelines and to provide sufficient information supported by data to clarify not only the legal situation of women but also the situation as it actually is, in practice, including the obstacles encountered, instead of simply providing a description of the legal framework.
42. The Committee requests the Government to disseminate these concluding comments widely in Uruguay and to promote public discussion of them, so as to bring to the attention of politicians, government administrators, non-governmental women's organizations and the general public the action that must be taken to achieve de jure and de facto equality of men and women. It also requests the Government to continue to ensure wide dissemination, particularly among human rights and women's organizations, of the Convention, its Optional Protocol, the Committee's general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the results of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".