Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cuban communists to oppose LGBT discrimination

Cuba LibreImage by flippinyank via Flickr
By Paul Canning

Cuban blogger Francisco Rodríguez Cruz reports that the official papers for the January Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, its first in fourteen years, includes opposition to discrimination against LGBT people.

Cruz says that the document includes two new party objectives:

54. Confront racial, gender, religious, sexual orientation and other prejudices that may generate any form of discrimination or limit people from exercising their rights to, among others, occupy public posts, and participate in the political and mass organizations and in the defense of the country.
65. To reflect in the audiovisual media, the printed and digital press Cuban reality in all its diversity regarding the economic, labor and social situation, gender, skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and territorial origin.
Furthermore, the document's introduction states that “the current challenges require (...) confronting prejudices and discrimination of all kinds that still persist in society”.

Cruz believes that:

"With regards to the specific topic of sexual diversity, the enunciation is sufficiently broad to cover a series of transformations that are necessary to guarantee respect for the free sexual orientation and gender identity in Cuba. This has to do with the legal status of homosexual unions and the participation of LGBT persons in responsibilities of any kind, including military institutions."
Cuban Minister of Justice, María Esther Reus, says that the Family Code will be updated in 2013. This could include legal marriage for couples of the same sex.

Progress on LGBT rights in Cuba has been led by Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro. In June she told a conference in Glasgow, Scotland, that Cuba’s Communist Party may soon be ready to recognise gay rights.

In a September  interview with Havana Times Castro Espín said that it is "the prejudices of Cuban society" which is holding back progress on LGBT human rights: "obstacles exist because prejudices dominate institutional decisions here."

She cited prejudice as the reason why the Ministry of Justice has refused to accept proposals for legal change, rather than Catholic Church opposition saying:
"The Catholic Church has been consistent in outlining its disagreement with what we’re doing, but it isn’t waging war against us. I don’t feel that they’re the obstacle."
Despite this progress, continuing police harassment in Cuba, including arrests, has been reported on gay Cuban blogs, such as that of the Reinaldo Arenas Memorial Foundation. Francisco Rodríguez Cruz has also condemned 'irregularities' committed by Cuban police, who have repeatedly fined visitors to a gay spot in central Havana. In September a death in custody of a transgender man was reported in Havana.

Dissident Roberto de Jesús Guerra, who was released from prison after two years in 2007, has said that raids by police on LGBT meeting at several sites in the Cuban capital have recently been stepped up.

According to Imbert Leannes Acosta, director of El Observatorio Cubano de los Derechos de la Comunidad LGBT (OBCUD LGBT, Cuban Observatory of the Rights of the LGBT), repression of LGBT in Cuba is increasing, not only in Havana but "we have documented Matanzas [North Cuba] and Guantanamo [East Cuba] cases." He said that his group would protest repression to the United Nations.

The independent organisation has not been allowed to officially register. Under the slogan "Homosexuality is a matter of rights, not of opinions", OBCUD LGBT ran the "National Campaign for LGBT rights" in June which included a march 28 June.

A State Department document recently released by Wikileaks suggests that non-state supported LGBT initiatives in Cuba are receiving American funding.

Translation by Walter Lippmann

HT: Francisco Rodríguez
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