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Cuba & LGBTI rights

Mariela Castro's Toronto speech on LGBTI rights in Cuba

Click HERE for more on Cuba and LGBTI rights

July 9, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Cuban political leader and advocate of gay and lesbian liberation, Mariela Castro, was an invited foreign guest and participant in the festivities and discussions during the WorldPride celebration in Toronto in late June 2014.

Mariela Castro is the director of the National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba (CENESEX). Castro and CENESEX have greatly helped to sustain and lead the fight against homophobia in Cuba. She is also an elected member of Cuba's parliament, the National Assembly.

She spoke at several events that were part of the WorldPride program and she attended the huge World Pride Parade.

During the WorldPride events in Toronto, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Syd Ryan, awarded Mariela Castro the OFL's International Workplace Rights Award. Ryan motivated the award to Castro, citing, in part, the major gains registered by Cuba's new labour code. It bans discrimination and violence in the workplace based on sexual orientation.

Eyewitness Cuba: March Against Homophobia celebrates new outlook

Dancing at March Against Homophobia, Cienfuegos, Cuba, May 17, 2012. Photo by Don Fitz.

[See also "Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution".]

By Don Fitz and Jacquelyn Omotalade, Cienfuegos, Cuba

May 28, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “This discussion has changed my mind about homosexuality. Now I understand what my lesbian friend went through. When she graduated from medical school in Cuba, she cried. She told me that she could live her life the way she wanted to when she was in Cuba. But now she would return to Honduras as a doctor and would have to hide her lifestyle, hide who she is”.

These were the words of a young woman wearing the medical school bata (white shirt) who identified herself as Honduran. The Honduran medical student spoke at an open forum that was part of the International Day Against Homophobia (May 17, 2012) in Cienfuegos, Cuba. The forum featured Mariela Castro, who is director of the National Sex Education Center and daughter of Cuba’s President Raul Castro.

Cuba: Interview with Mariela Castro, director of the National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX)

By Bernard Duraud for the French newspaper L’Humanité, published December 9. Published in Spanish on the Cubadebate website, December 14. Translation by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews, edited by Marce Cameron for Cuba's Socialist Renewal.

[See also "Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution".]

* * *

The daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro and the late Vilma Espin, a key figure in the Cuban Revolution, Mariela Castro Espin, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), is a tireless campaigner for the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals, who have suffered discrimination for a long time. She is the initiator of important changes that concern them.

Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution

March to celebrate LGBTI rights in Havana, May 2009.

By Rachel Evans

December 23, 2011 (updated January 28, 2012) – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When I was 16, I went to a Cuba solidarity event in my home town. At the end of inspiring speeches about Cuba’s health record, education standards, and the revolution’s policy of sending doctors and teachers to impoverished countries, a rousing “Cuba si! Yankee no!” chant erupted. It was electric. Much better than the fake feeling, singing and dancing we’d experienced in the church hall on Sunday. I was impressed and resolved to visit the country and see the revolution for myself. Years later and having come out of the closet, I decided my trip to Cuba could help prove or dispel the oft-uttered line of Cuba being homophobic.

This work will help put to bed the lies and distortions propagated by the powerful United States (US) propaganda machine: that the Cuban Revolution is undemocratic, homophobic and tyrannical. My visit to and study of Cuba finds that there is no basis to these claims.

Sexual self-determination in socialist Cuba: An interview with CENESEX director Mariela Castro Espín

CENESEX director Mariela Castro Espín (centre).

March 23, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In Cuba, there is a LGBTT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transsexual] movement whose gestation is found at the intersection of the state and organised civil society. This movement seeks to tackle the main themes of LGBTT reality from the perspective of human rights, health and social integration, while inserting itself into the national project of a just society. Historically, the space for its existence was provided by the country’s women’s movement, which was largely responsible for making Cuba, in 2008, the first country in the Americas to have sex-change operations included in the universal health-care system.  

HIV/AIDS treatment in Cuba: a rights-based analysis; Lessons and challenges

One of Cuba's many neighbourhood health clinics, centrepieces of Cuba's health system.

By Tim Anderson

Cuba has achieved the lowest rate of HIV infection and the highest level of AIDS treatment in the Caribbean region. Yet the Cuban HIV program — part of its famous health system — has been subjected to many criticisms, usually linked to the themes of “freedom” and “rights.” These criticisms must be seen in the broader context of demands for economic “freedoms” in Cuba and in the context of US demands for the dismantling of Cuban socialism and for widespread privatisation, including privatisation of the public health system. Outside understandings of the Cuban health system are further undermined by the US economic blockade of Cuba, roundly condemned each year by the United Nations General Assembly, which prevents normal scientific and cultural exchange between the US and Cuba.

International Day against Homophobia celebrated in Cuba -- three reports from Havana

Havana, 16 May, 2009 -- Prensa Latina -- International Day against Homophobia was observed here today, with the participation of a diverse, largely youthful public.

In the early hours of the morning, the day's activities began at the headquarters of the Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) and the Pabellón Cuba, in the central district of El Vedado.

Mariela Castro Espín, the director of the National Center of Sex Education (CENESEX), presided over the inauguration of the day's events with a parade and the opening of the panel on "Sexual diversity in the Cuban family."

Socialist feminist revival spearheaded by Venezuelan and Cuban revolutions

By Reihana Mohideen

May 4, 2009 -- There is a revival of socialist feminism in Latin America, spearheaded by the Venezuelan and Cuban revolutions.

I have just returned from a workshop on gender-based violence organised by the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Venezuela and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Speakers included Maria Leon, Venezuela's minister of women's affairs, and Nora Casteneda, president of Banmujer (Bank for the Development of Women). The two women explained the gains made by women as a result of Bolivarian socialist revolution in Venezuela. Truly amazing attempts in empowering women towards achieving gender equality were reported candidly by both women, who also outlined the challenges women in Venezuela have as yet to overcome.

Venezuela's Bolivarian constitution is the first in the South (and possibly the world) to recognise women's housework as a legitimate economic activity producing wealth and contributing to the social welfare of the population: "The State will recognise household chores as an economic activity that creates added value, produces wealth and social welfare. Housewives have the right to social security according to the law" (Article 88). As Maria Leon explained, in Article 88 "the work of all previous generations of women are also recognised and valued".

The future of socialism and LGBTI rights in Cuba -- Interview with Mariela Castro Espín

January 1, 2009 -- In Havana, Mariela Castro Espín speaks to Anastasia Haydulina of Russia Today Television. Mariela Castro is director of CENESEX –- the National Center for Sexual Education -- and a leading authority and proponent of LGBT freedoms in Cuba and globally. She addresses how Cuban society is dealing with changing perceptions of sexuality and concrete measures benefiting LGBTs. Castro also reflects on new legislation, transsexualism, same-sex unions, gay rights, AIDS, her father President Raúl Castro, her mother Vilma Espín, founder and President of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the woes caused by the US economic blockade of Cuba and her views on US President-elect Barack Obama, as well as the history of the revolution. Sections of the interview have been translated and transcribed below.

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