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The Gap: The Discrepancy Between the de Jure Rights and the de Facto Reality Experienced by LGBTQ+ Students in Uruguay


Uruguay elected its first left-of-center government in 2004 on a human rights platform that has maintained power for fifteen years. Numerous organizations recognize Uruguay as having the most progressive LGBTQ+ legislation in Latin America as measured by benchmark laws.

All available studies indicate that there is a deep discrepancy between the de jure rights and protections and the de facto experience of LGBTQ+ students who report high rates of absenteeism, feeling unsafe at school, and experiencing verbal and physical homophobic bullying by both students and teachers. Interviews that I conducted with experts in various

professions confirm this reality. The purpose of this investigation is to identify institutional and societal factors that have created this gap and have reinforced replication of entrenched societal homophobia in the school place; actions and initiatives designed to bridge the gap that are being taken or are under consideration, and look at the possible roadmaps for the path forward.

Uruguay has a history of passing progressive legislation that remains inoperable for years or even decades. Educational institutions self-govern with constitutionally granted autonomy; having their own mechanisms for handling grievances, answering to neither judicial nor legislative branches. Many of the norms and protocols that are in place to address homo-lesbo-transphobic violence are not fully functional; at schools there are no adjudication protocols. The sex education program established in 2008 for primary and secondary curriculum has not been consistently implemented, and rarely is the required perspective on sexual diversity included. The national history curricula have no LGBTQ+ content.

LGBTQ+ laws are less than a generation old, and problems identified in education are even newer. Programs designed to address these inequities are very recent and there is very little scholarship on this topic. These problems are exacerbated outside of Montevideo in the more conservative half of the country known as the interior.

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