Mariela Castro's Toronto speech on LGBTI rights in Cuba

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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.

Art Young, in a message to the Socialist Voice Circle listserve, reported that "At a public meeting on June 22, Mariela Castro gave a refreshingly frank presentation of the trajectory of the Cuban revolution on these issues, noting both the progress that has been made and the struggles that are ongoing. She related these issues to a non-dogmatic, liberatory vision of a socialist society."

The United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCWCanada), which facilitated her trip to Canada, posted a video of her talk on its website, which is also posted above.…

A Kissing Sit-In and An Open Letter for LGBT Rights in Cuba

Translation posted 30 June 2014 13:00 GMT

At the “Second Kissing Sit-In or ‘Besada’ for Diversity and Equality” in Havana, Cuba, people “put the Revolution in a Kiss”, and these kisses most certainly are revolutionary. However, the second edition of the “Besada” comes at a time when controversy has arisen around the exclusion of discrimination based on gender identity in the new Labor Code.

The Rainbow Project or Proyecto Arcoiris, an anti-capitalist and independent project, organizes the activities in Havana, Cuba, on June 28th, LGTB Pride Day, to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots, which marked a historical moment for LGBT rights which occurred in New York in 1969.

On the same date in 2012, Arcoiris organized the first “Besada,” and nearly 50 people participated in that event in the vicinity of the sports arena Ramon Fonst, in the municipality Plaza Havana. This time it will was held in Plaza Vieja, in the capital city.

The organizers explained the rational behind this flash mob style action:

Original Quote

Kissing in public should be everyone's right, but many view it as a public scandal, if it happens between other individuals besides heterosexuals. When we as men and women kiss, for love or fraternity, we exercise our equality as citizens and we display the double standards that spark homophobia, sexism, the discriminatory attitudes that mark the root of our culture and which we must change.

In addition to being published in the blog of Arcoiris, the message was distributed on various internet sites, among them Furthermore, several magazines published on the Island, such as La Jiribilla and Cuba Contemporánea, have written about this event.

The letter convening the event adds:

Original Quote

Because a revolution means changing everything that needs change, and we defend the idea of an anti-capitalist, revolutionary and democratic society. Join us and celebrate the Labor Code, Law No 116, and for the first time, the protection of homosexuals. Come and demand a public explanation addressing the elimination of gender identity issues and status regarding HIV, in the same legislation, although the National Assembly did not approve it.

On this date, the color of your skin, gender, gender identity, religious or political beliefs, sexual orientation, national origin, disabilities nor any other distinction do not matter, but what does is the faith in equality of all forms of love, forming a family, reproducing, being committed… all forms of BEING PATRIOTIC.

On June 28th, put the Revolution in a Kiss

The context in which the “Besada” is taking place is the recent enactment of the new Labor Code, which excluded the recommendation of Mariela Castro Espín, member of the Cuban Parliament and renowned Cuban investigator, of including gender identity as a motive of discrimination in the work environment.

Several journalists and bloggers have expressed their disagreement on the outcome of the new Labor Code, which went from being discussed to being published in the Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba (Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba) without the approval of the final changes. Castro Espín addressed this issue on the National Center for Sex Education's website,(Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual ‘Cenesex'), the institution which she also leads.

Members of Project Arcoiris sent a letter to Esteban Lazo Hernández, chairman of the National Assembly of People's Power. Below we share this document in its entirety:

Original Quote

Havana, June 23, 2014

56th year of the Revolution

To: Esteban Lazo Hernández

Chairman of the National Assembly of People's Power


The official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba has recently published the definitive text of the Labor Code, Law No 116, and we would like to be clear regarding the reasons for the absence of certain elements that many individuals wished to have seen on this legal provision, after the discussion and approval of this law, by the highest legislative body, which you are head of.

Our entire town watched, on Cuban Television, the debate concerning this legislation as it went through Parliament during its ordinary meetings in December 2013. That specific analysis was followed by several proposals from the Parliament member Mariela Castro Espín, who was the spokesperson with a set of approaches from workers and activists as part of the public consultation process of the drafting of the Law.

Amongst those suggestions were the inclusion of gender identity and HIV status as motives for which it is never admisible for a human being to be discriminated against in a work environment, which fall within the fundamental principles that govern our labor rights, in section B, Article 2 of that legal document.

Nonetheless, despite the support of these declarations from other members of the Parliament, and the intervention of Cuban vice president Miguel Díaz, who advocated for taking into account the already mentioned and entrusted the mandate to a parliamentary commission, those two aspects do not appear in the already published legislation.

This issue alarms us, not only because it implies an alleged ignorance of the will expressed by several members of the National Assembly of People's Power, as well as how serious this could be in relation to the democratic principles and procedures that should apply to the Parliament's ability to function.

What most concerns us is the human and political importance that were ignored without any apparent explanation. The transgender individuals are the ones who deal with the most social and labor discrimination in our country, nor has the stigma and prejudice towards individuals with HIV/aids been completely resolved, and also in regards to their professional abilities and the right to pursue any type of employment.

Henceforth, as citizens of this country, and also as human and sexual rights activists standing up for the idea of an anticapitalist, revolutionary and democratic society, we request a public explanation regarding the criteria which the already mentioned parliamentary commission followed in order to exclude, from the final version of Law No 11, the proposal to amend the draft of the Labor Code.

We thank you in advance for your efforts in responding quickly and with full transparency, to our very respectful and civic request.

Kind regards,

The members of Proyecto Arcoiris. LGBT Collective, anti-capitalist and independent of Cuba.

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