☰ Menu


Jimena Villar de Onis

Text reviewed by Lynn Gertiser


The Constitution of Uruguay is the supreme law of Uruguay. The right to health is included in the following sections and articles of the Constitution:

Article 40- The family is the basis of our society. The State shall safeguard its moral and material stability so that children may be properly reared within that society.

Article 41- The care and education of children, so that they may attain their fullest physical, intellectual, and social capacity, is the duty and the right of parents. Those who have large families to support are entitled to compensatory aid if they need it.

The law shall provide the necessary measures for the protection of infancy and youth against physical, intellectual, or moral neglect by their parents or guardians, as well as against exploitation and abuse.

Article 44- The State shall legislate on all questions connected with public health and hygiene, endeavoring to attain the physical, moral, and social improvement of all inhabitants of the country.

It is the duty of all inhabitants to take care of their health as well as to receive treatment in case of illness. The State will provide the means of prevention and treatment to both indigents and those lacking sufficient means.

Article 54- The law must recognize, independent of an individual’s moral or civic consciousness, the right of every person performing labor or services as a worker or employee to just remuneration, limitation of the working day, a weekly day of rest, and physical and moral health. The labor of women and of minors under eighteen years of age shall be specially regulated and limited.

Article 275(9)- The Intendant exercises the executive functions: To oversee public health and primary, secondary, preparatory, industrial and artistic education and propose to competent authorities suitable measures for their improvement.

Sexual and reproductive rights implementation


In 2012 the President of Uruguay signed and approved the Law on the Voluntary Interruption of a Pregnancy (Law N 18.987) which decriminalized abortions in Uruguay within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy. Past the 12th week of pregnancy, the law allows for three exceptions:

  1. In case of rape or incest as long as it is within the first 14 weeks.
  2. When the pregnancy imposes a grave risk for the health of the woman.
  3. If a pathological process occurs that would make the malformations incompatible with life out of uterus.

Violence against women

In 2002 Uruguay passed the Law Against Domestic Violence. Article 3 defines violence against women as physical violence, mental or emotional violence, sexual violence, or material violence.

Rights of sexual minorities

Since the adaptation of the Law of Childhood and Teenager-hood in September 2009, same-sex couples in a civil union can jointly adopt. The law enabling this was approved by the House of Deputies on 28 August 2009, by the Senate on 9 September 2009, and was ultimately approved by President Vázquez. Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

Incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity has been prohibited since 2003, and 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 gender identity discrimination. The Commission is intended to recommend laws to protect against various forms of discrimination. Since May 2009, gays are allowed to serve openly in the military of Uruguay, after the Defense Minister lifted a ban installed during the dictatorship (1975-1985). The decree signed stated that military recruitment policy would no longer discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Human trafficking

In December 2007, an anti-trafficking statute (Chapter XV of the Law of Immigration) was enacted by the Uruguayan government as part of a comprehensive immigration reform deal. Article 78 of this new law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, and prescribes penalties of 4 to 16 years’ imprisonment. Uruguayan law also criminalizes trafficking of minors and child pornography, prescribing penalties ranging from 6 months' to 12 years’  imprisonment—penalties which are commensurate with those for other grave crimes. Forced labor is prohibited under Section 1 of Title XI of the Uruguayan penal code, and punishable by 6 to 12 years' imprisonment.

Rights of transgender people

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 in order to keep it in line with the gender identity they identify with.

Sexual and reproductive rights challenges

Prevention of human trafficking and protection of victims is still limited in Uruguay.