Uruguay: Parliament Forbids Hate Speech and Violence Based on Sexual Orientation

SUMMARY

After three years of debate, the Uruguayan Parliament passed on July 10. 2003 a law proposal that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the categories against which the Uruguay Penal Code forbids the commission of violent acts and incitement to hate. The only step required for the law to enter into force is presidential ratification.

Up to now, two countries in Latin America have nation-wide protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation: Ecuador (via its Constitution, since 1997) and Mexico (via a Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination, since 2003). Some of the many anti-discriminatory ordinances and statewide laws in place in Brazil (for example, the Fortaleza law), the states of Aguascalientes and Chiapas in Mexico, and Mexico City

ACTION

IGLHRC joins Uruguayan activists in requesting that letters be sent to the Uruguayan President to encourage him to ratify the proposal, as well as that letters of thanks be sent to the Deputies and Senators who voted in favor of the proposal.

Please send the letters to the President to:

Mr. Jorge Battle
President of the Uruguayan Republic
sepredi@presidencia.gub.uy and presidente@presidencia.gub.uy

And please send letters to the Deputies and Senators to the following list:

wabdala@parlamento.gub.uy,
oabisab@parlamento.gub.uy,
gacostaylara@parlamento.gub.uy,
eagazzi@parlamento.gub.uy,
galvarez@parlamento.gub.uy,
jamaro@parlamento.gub.uy,
gamen@parlamento.gub.uy,
jamorin@parlamento.gub.uy,
rargenzio@parlamento.gub.uy,
bargimon@parlamento.gub.uy,
rarrarte@parlamento.gub.uy,
rarregui@parlamento.gub.uy,
cbaraibar@parlamento.gub.uy,
rbarreiro@parlamento.gub.uy,
jbarrera@parlamento.gub.uy,
abarrios@parlamento.gub.uy,
jbayardi@parlamento.gub.uy,
ebellomo@parlamento.gub.uy,
jbentancor@parlamento.gub.uy,
nbergstein@parlamento.gub.uy,
rberois@parlamento.gub.uy,
dbianchi@parlamento.gub.uy,
jblasina@parlamento.gub.uy,
gborsari@parlamento.gub.uy,
nbosch@parlamento.gub.uy,
bcanet@parlamento.gub.uy,
jcardozo@parlamento.gub.uy,
ncastro@parlamento.gub.uy,
rcastroman@parlamento.gub.uy,
rconde@parlamento.gub.uy,
jchapper@parlamento.gub.uy,
scharlone@parlamento.gub.uy,
echiesa@parlamento.gub.uy,
gchifflet@parlamento.gub.uy,
sdasilva@parlamento.gub.uy,
rdiaz@parlamento.gub.uy,
ddmaynard@parlamento.gub.uy,
jdominguez@parlamento.gub.uy,
afalco@parlamento.gub.uy,
rfalero@parlamento.gub.uy,
afernandez@parlamento.gub.uy,
rfonticiella@parlamento.gub.uy,
lgallo@parlamento.gub.uy,
dgpintos@parlamento.gub.uy,
ogil@parlamento.gub.uy,
cgonzalez@parlamento.gub.uy,
gguarino@parlamento.gub.uy,
thackenbruch@parlamento.gub.uy,
aheber@parlamento.gub.uy,
dibarra@parlamento.gub.uy,
llacalle@parlamento.gub.uy,
jlara@parlamento.gub.uy,
flavina@parlamento.gub.uy,
lleglise@parlamento.gub.uy,
rlegnani@parlamento.gub.uy,
gmachado@parlamento.gub.uy,
omagurno@parlamento.gub.uy,
jmahia@parlamento.gub.uy,
jmaspoli@parlamento.gub.uy,
amelgarejo@parlamento.gub.uy,
jmello@parlamento.gub.uy,
fmichelini@parlamento.gub.uy,
jmieres@parlamento.gub.uy,
pmieres@parlamento.gub.uy,
rmolinelli@parlamento.gub.uy
mmontaner@parlamento.gub.uy,
robispo@parlamento.gub.uy,
jorrico@parlamento.gub.uy,
fortiz@parlamento.gub.uy,
gpais@parlamento.gub.uy,
rpais@parlamento.gub.uy,
gpenades@parlamento.gub.uy,
mpercovich@parlamento.gub.uy,
aperdomo@parlamento.gub.uy,
dperez@parlamento.gub.uy,
eperez@parlamento.gub.uy,
epintado@parlamento.gub.uy,
cpita@parlamento.gub.uy,
mponcedeleon@parlamento.gub.uy,
iposada@parlamento.gub.uy,
ypunales@parlamento.gub.uy,
mrivero@parlamento.gub.uy,
arodriguez@parlamento.gub.uy,
grondan@parlamento.gub.uy,
vrossi@parlamento.gub.uy,
psande@parlamento.gub.uy,
jlsanguinetti@parlamento.gub.uy,
dsaravia@parlamento.gub.uy,
ascavarelli@parlamento.gub.uy,
lsellanes@parlamento.gub.uy,
rsendic@parlamento.gub.uy,
psenorale@parlamento.gub.uy,
gsilveira@parlamento.gub.uy,
jsilveira@parlamento.gub.uy,
ltopolansky@parlamento.gub.uy,
dtourne@parlamento.gub.uy,
wtrivel@parlamento.gub.uy,
wvener@parlamento.gub.uy
mpercovich@parlamento.gub.uy

And in both cases, please send a copy to activists at:

dianae@dedicado.net.uy

MODEL LETTERS

1. Letter to the President

Mr. Jorge Battle
President of the Uruguayan Republic

Dear Sir,

We write to congratulate you on the historic step that the Uruguayan Parliament has taken towards protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the country against violence by passing an amendment to Articles 149.2 and 149.3 of the national Penal Code that punishes commission of violent acts against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as incitement o hate or disregard them.

By the passing of that amendment, Uruguay stands among those countries that have committed themselves to honoring one of the very foundations of international human rights: the principle of non discrimination. Countries that already have in place legislation like the one the Uruguayan Parliament just passed include Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. As you can see, some of those countries are also among those with the highest levels of human development and the most advanced forms of democratic government. It might well be assumed that development and true democracy go hand in hand with respect for and protection of minorities.

We encourage you to ratify the proposal already approved by the Parliament as soon as possible, so that protection against violence and hatred becomes a reality for Uruguayan lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Doing so will also to allow the Uruguayan society at large to live in a climate of increased tolerance and respect for diversity.

Sincerely,

Your name, address, organization


2. Letter to the Deputies and Senator

Dear Sir /Madam,

We write to congratulate you on the historic step that the Uruguayan Parliament has taken towards protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the country against violence by passing an amendment to Articles 149.2 and 149.3 of the national Penal Code that punishes commission of violent acts against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as incitement o hate or disregard them.

By the passing of that amendment, Uruguay stands among those countries that have committed themselves to honoring one of the very foundations of international human rights: the principle of non discrimination. Countries that already have in place legislation like the one the Uruguayan Parliament just passed include Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. As you can see, some of those countries are also among those with the highest levels of human development and the most advanced forms of democratic government. It might well be assumed that development and true democracy go hand in hand with respect for and protection of minorities.

We are aware of two upcoming proposals that will again test your commitment to upholding equality and non-discrimination. The first is the Assisted Human Fertilization Bill, where we would like to encourage you to consider the possibility of granting the right to form a family to all women, without discrimination based on civil status. And the second is the Proposal Against Discrimination where we would like to consider the possibility of extending those protections to those persons who are discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity and their sexual orientation. Together, these proposals and the amendment to the penal code ensure that the human rights of all Uruguayans will be respected.

Sincerely,

Your name, organization and country

BACKGROUND

MPs Washington Abdala and Margarita Percovich submitted the proposal in 2001. The Deputies Chamber passed it in October 2001, with some amendments made. The Senate then also passed the proposal, but removed the amendments. The Proposal was returned to the Deputies chamber, which agreed with the Senate’s changes, and on July 10, 2003, the Uruguayan Parliament passed the Proposal. It now awaits the President’s ratification to become law.

It is worth noticing that the amendments introduced by the Deputies were aimed at –according to local activists –“toning down the Proposal”. By removing those amendments, the Senate restored the intent of the proposal’s authors, MPs Abdala and Percovics, to make the strongest possible law against discrimination based upon sexual orientatiuon.

The text that will be incorporated to the Uruguayan Penal Code is the following:

Article 149.2
“Those who publicly or through any public media incite to hatred, disregard or any form of moral or physical violence against one or more persons on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, profession, craftsmanship, or physical condition will be punished by spending three to eighteen months in prison”

Article 149.3
“Those who indulge in acts of moral or physical violence, hate or disregard against one or more persons on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, profession, craftsmanship, or physical condition will be punished by spending six to twenty four months in prison”.

Article 149 of the Uruguay Penal Code already punishes those who “publicly or through any public media incite to hatred … on the basis of skin color, race, religion, national or ethnic origin”.

This is a remarkable achievement. It is the first national law to take into account LGBT people in Uruguay.

INTERNATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The right to be free from discrimination is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its Articles 2 and 7, by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in its Articles 2 and 26, and by the Interamerican Convention on Human Rights (ICHR) in its Articles 1.1 and 24.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v Australia (1994) that existing protections against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Right to liberty and security of person) is protected by the
UDHR in its Article 3; by the ICCPR in
its Articles 6 and 9, and by the IAHRC in its Articles 4 and 7.

Right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment is protected by the UDHR (Article 5), by the ICCPR
(Article 7), by the ICHR (Article 5.2) and by the Convention Against Torture and Other Curel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Right to freedom of expression is protected by the UDHR (Article 19), the ICCPR (Article 19) and the IACHR (Article 13).

Right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 12.1), UDHR (Article 25) and IAHRC (Article 26).

Countries that have nation-wide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation include Canada (Canadian Human Rights Act, since 1996); Ecuador (Article 23 in the Constitution, since 1998), Ireland (Equal Status Act, since 2000), New Zealand (Human Rights Act, since 1993), South Africa (Article 98 in the Constitution, since 1996) and Switzerland (Article 8 in the Constitution, since 1999).

Also, several countries prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in their Penal Codes. Among them are Denmark (since 1987), Finland (since 1995), France, Iceland (since 1996), Lithuania (since 2000), Luxembourg (since 1997), the Netherlands (since 1991), Norway (since 1981), Slovenia (since 1994), Spain (since 1995) and Sweden (since 1987).

ABOUT IGLHRC

The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), IGLHRC effects this mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.

IGLHRC
1375 Sutter Street, Suite 222
San Francisco, CA 94109
USA
Telephone: +1-415-561-0633
Fax: +1-415-561-0619
Email: iglhrc@iglhrc.org
http://www.iglhrc.org


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