[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

URUGUAY (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Uruguay is primarily a source and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Most victims are women and girls trafficked within the country to border and tourist areas for commercial sexual exploitation; some boys are also trafficked for the same purpose. Occasionally, parents facilitate the exploitation of their children in prostitution, and impoverished parents in rural areas have turned over their children for forced domestic and agricultural labor. Lured by false job offers, some Uruguayan women have been trafficked to Spain and Italy for commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of Uruguay does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government showed strong prevention efforts and sustained victim services, and opened one criminal investigation under its new anti-trafficking law. However, vigorous law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders remained lacking.

Recommendations for Uruguay: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; increase efforts to implement the new anti-trafficking law; expand anti-trafficking training for judges and law enforcement personnel; and increase victim services and protection efforts.

The Government of Uruguay modestly improved its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the last year. In early 2008, the government enacted an anti-trafficking statute as part of a broader immigration reform package. Article 78 of this new law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, prescribing penalties of four to 16 years’ imprisonment. Article 78 supplements older Uruguayan laws that prohibit child trafficking, child pornography, and forced labor, which prescribe penalties ranging from six months’ to 12 years’ imprisonment. All the above penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes. During the reporting period, the government opened one case under its new anti-trafficking law; two defendants who allegedly trafficked nearly a dozen women into forced prostitution in Spain were in prison awaiting trial at the time of publication. Under older statutes, two female defendants were arrested and charged with pimping of minors in separate cases. In October 2008, the judiciary established two special courts to focus on organized crime cases, including trafficking in persons. The government increased anti-trafficking training for consular and immigration officials, though NGOs indicate that police and judges remain unfamiliar with Uruguayan anti-trafficking laws, particularly outside Montevideo. Uruguayan law enforcement officials cooperated with counterparts in neighboring Mercosur governments and other countries on international trafficking cases. There was no confirmed evidence of official complicity with human trafficking.

The Uruguayan government sustained basic victim services during the year. Child victims of trafficking are referred to government institutions for care; 14 child trafficking victims were offered assistance during the reporting period. The government operated shelters accessible to adult female victims of abuse, including trafficking victims, and endeavored to provide legal, medical, and psychological care. Adult male trafficking victims, however, were not eligible for services. While the government provided limited assistance to NGOs working in the area of trafficking, the availability of victim services remained uneven across the country, especially outside the capital. The government does not have a formal system for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as adults in prostitution or undocumented migrants. The government encourages but does not force victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. There were no reports of victims being jailed, deported, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Uruguayan law does not force the repatriation of any foreign trafficking victim, and allows trafficking victims to seek citizenship in Uruguay.

The Uruguayan government increased its efforts to raise public awareness of the dangers of human trafficking and child prostitution during the reporting period, launching a widespread week-long information campaign in October 2008. Government officials spoke publicly about human trafficking, conducted media interviews, and distributed 50,000 anti-trafficking leaflets and 5,000 posters in tourist areas. Government officials also conducted outreach to hotel workers and to others in the broader tourism sector to raise awareness about child sex tourism and the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. The government maintained good cooperation with NGOs, and supported a local organization’s efforts to conduct anti-trafficking outreach among prostituted women. The Ministry of Education continued to include anti-trafficking material in its high school sex education curriculum. Last year the government formed an informal interagency committee to direct its anti-trafficking efforts, in addition to maintaining a special committee focusing on the commercial and non-commercial sexual exploitation of children. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Uruguayan troops being deployed on international peacekeeping missions during the year. In an effort to reduce consumer demand for commercial sex acts, the government prosecuted a small number of “clients” for commercial sexual exploitation of minors. There were no known efforts to address demand for forced labor.