Uruguay Named Most LGBT-friendly Country In Latin America

“Uruguay continues to be a model for social inclusion in Latin America.”

Americas Quarterly has released its annual Social Inclusion Index, ranking countries in Latin America based on how well they serve their citizens. Coming out on top on LGBT rights was Uruguay.

The country also earned first place overall, thanks to strong performance in economic growth, women's rights and job creation.

“Uruguay continues to be a model for social inclusion in Latin America,” says Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Brian Winter.

“Its progress in recent years on issues including women’s empowerment and marriage equality has added to its long-standing status as a champion of egalitarian values."

Homosexuality has been legal in Uruguay since 1933, and anti-discrimination laws were put in place in 2003. Adoption by gay couples came in 2009, followed by same-sex marriage four years later.

More recently, a change in government guidelines allows transgender people to change their legal gender without undergoing surgery.

"Simply put, the country does a better job than its peers of protecting people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or race," writes AQ.

"Uruguayans themselves place huge importance on inclusion, and their country’s position in the ranking is also boosted by robust access to housing, job generation and economic growth."

This summer, Uruguay hosted the first international LGBT rights conference in Latin America, with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and more than 200 dignitaries, activists and politicians in attendance.

Coming in second for LGBT-friendliness was Argentina, which legalized marriage equality in 2010—the first nation in Latin America to do so.

Gays can serve openly in the Argentinian military, the government prohibits conversion therapy, and the ban on gay men donating blood was lifted last year.

A government program even helps trans women play soccer rather than resort to sex work.

But activists are quick to add that the accolades don't mean LGBT people are free from discrimination or violence in either country.

Argentinian trans activists Marcela Chocobar, Coty Olmos and Diana Sacayan were all murdered in a span of two months last year. Sacayan was tied to her bed and stabbed repeatedly.

“A lot has been achieved under both countries’ gender identity laws, but trans women still continue to suffer violence and are victims of hate crimes,” Marcela Romero of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People told the Washington Blade.

“We have still not achieved the full recognition of rights, such as access to health and employment opportunities.”

Meanwhile, countries in Central America's Northern Triangle—El Salvador, Nicuargua, Honduras and Guatamala—ranked at the bottom of AQ's rankins.

Fueled by religious intolerance, discrimination and violence against gay and transgender people are common in all four countries.

Francela Méndez Rodríguez, head of a trans advocacy group in El Salvador, was murdered last May while visiting a friend’s home.

Rene Martínez, leader of a Honduras LGBT rights group, was found strangled to death this June.

“I’ve been imprisoned on many occasions. I’ve suffered torture and sexual violence because of my activism, and I’ve survived many assassination attempts,” recounts Honduran activist Donny Reyes.

Lacking data from several sources, the study omitted U.S. and Panama—had they been included the United States would have ranked fourth, and Panama a distant 17th.

Venezuela was also excluded from the index, according to researchers, "because of concerns over quality of government data."

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has suspended the country's constitution and delayed a recall vote until next year.

For more on international LGBT issues, visit Logo’s Global Ally page.