IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Passage of Legislation Codifying the Crime of Femicide in Uruguay

October 6, 2017

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes Uruguay’s codification of the crime of femicide. The IACHR considers this decision to be a positive step toward preventing, punishing, and eradicating violence against women in Uruguay.

According to information the Commission has received, on September 12, 2017, a majority in Uruguay’s Chamber of Deputies approved a bill on Acts of Discrimination and Femicide, amending Article 312 of the country’s Criminal Code. This modification defines the crime of femicide as a very special aggravating circumstance when the killing of a woman is motivated by hatred or scorn because of her gender.

With this modification, motives of hatred may be considered to exist when a woman’s death was preceded by incidents of violence; when the victim had refused to establish or resume a relationship with the person who ended up killing her; or when the homicide was committed in the presence of children or adolescents related by blood to the killer or the victim. Femicide as an aggravating circumstance calls for a penalty of 15-30 years in prison, compared with the maximum 12 years in the case of simple homicide.

“The adoption of this type of measure is one of the multiple ways that States can promote the right of women to live a life free of violence and can combat the alarming situation of impunity,” said Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, the IACHR Rapporteur for Uruguay.

“Killings of women are not an isolated problem, but are symptomatic of a pattern that affects the entire region,” said Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Women. “There are still many structural factors that encourage the recurrence of killings of women, such as machismo, patriarchy, and sexist stereotypes. Defining the crime of femicide helps to draw attention to this situation and represents a positive step forward in the Uruguayan State’s efforts to develop laws to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence against women,” she added.

Uruguay currently ranks fifth—out of 23 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean—in terms of the number of women killed by their partner or ex-partner, according to data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Another 16 countries in the region have incorporated the concept of femicide in their laws, either defining it as a crime or as an aggravating circumstance, making Uruguay the 17th country in the Americas to do so. This trend sends a strong social message that violence against women will not be tolerated and will be punished when it occurs.

“Killing a woman because she is a woman represents the most serious and extreme form of gender discrimination and violence. Defining femicide as a crime speaks to the need to balance the structural inequality that exists between men and women given the prevalence of gender-motivated violence,” Commissioner Macaulay explained.

The Commission recognizes the State of Uruguay for the progress it has made in promoting women’s rights. It also invites the State to continue its efforts by adopting comprehensive laws related to violence against women and encouraging the modification of laws that could discriminate against women, especially in relation to the Criminal Code, pursuant to inter-American standards.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and defense of human rights in the region, and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 153/17