/** headlines: 130.0 **/
** Topic: Women's Rights Laws Revived in Uruguay **
** Written 10:19 PM Feb 28, 1997 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
MONTEVIDEO, Feb 21 (IPS) - It took eight years for an Uruguayan law against gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workforce to be put into force.
Although the law was approved in this Southern Cone nation eight years ago, the executive branch had not yet established regulations, a step finally taken this month by the administration of Julio Sanguinetti.
The Macedo law, originally pushed through in 1989 by former senator and ex-ambassador to Costa Rica Raquel Macedo, bans ''any kind of gender discrimination in public or private activity.''
Uruguayan womens groups see the 1995 Women's Conference in Beijing as having played a key role in reviving the law, which had been shelved for eight years. ''Last year, President Sanguinetti promised compliance with the international conventions (on gender discrimination) of which Uruguay was a signatory,'' and that the Macedo law would be pulled off the shelves, Lucy Garrido, a member of the National Follow-up Commission to the Beijing Platform, told IPS.
The law prohibits gender discrimination in hiring, firing, assignment of tasks, the establishment of performance evaluation criteria, access to possibilities for training and advancement or professional reconversion, promotion, salaries and raises.
Discrimination on the basis of change of marital status, pregnancy or nursing is considered especially serious.
Garrido pointed to ''flagrant violations'' of the law, for example the ''masculine'' and ''feminine'' categories of job offers in the want-ad sections of the country's leading newspapers.
''We'll pack the courts with cases to uproot such discriminatory practices, if necessary,'' she warned.
Jobs can be assigned by gender only in cases in which the sex of the person in question is key to fulfillment of the tasks involved, or in cases in which the particular job is specified in the international conventions.
Garrido cited two areas where sex discrimination was common: the state-run casinos and the armed forces. Women are not hired for certain jobs in the casinos due to union opposition, she said, while ''since two years ago, women can hold an army career, but cannot be named lieutentant general, the highest rank.''
In a number of areas, the politicians have had their hands tied by the unions, she added.
The regulations include sanctions for sexual harassment - defined as ''any sexual behaviour, aim, gesture or contact not desired by the person to whom it is directed which compromises or threatens to compromise his/her job situation'' - which was not included in the original draft by Macedo.
''This government initiative should be given an enthusiastic welcome, because it has saved us a battle,'' said Garrido. ''What is necessary now is to give it the widest possible dissemination,'' in order for those affected to become aware of their rights.
[c] 1997, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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