The niece of Fidel Castro is defying her uncle’s beliefs regarding sexual orientation by leading a revolution of pro-gay laws in Cuba.
Mariela Castro is in charge of the government’s National Centre for Sex Education, from which she has promoted issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, in stark contrast to country’s macho society and homosexual witch-hunts of the 1960s and 1970s.
Her department has previously campaigned for better AIDs prevention and promoted a soap opera involving a bisexual character and most recently pushed for a free gender transition law, which will be voted on in December.
She told the Reuters news agency that she is aiming to extend the Cuban Revolution to sexuality, “I want to bring the revolution’s humanity to those aspects of life that it hasn’t reached because of old prejudices.”
She insisted that she has the support of her father, the Cuban Defence Minister Raul Castro, but admitted President Castro is harder to persuade, “Of course, I talk with my father whenever I have the chance. He is one of those in the party that supports our work. He thinks it is useful, good, just.
“Fidel is very sensitive to these issues, he is a pensive man and when the subject is one of justice it gets his attention. He asks for more information, more elements to consider.”
Her mother, Vilma Espin, was a champion of women’s rights in Cuba, and pushed for men to help out in the home and with raising children.
Ms Castro is now being pushed to promote gay unions in the country, she said: “Many people ask her if she plans to push legalisation of gay marriages.
“We do not know what we will propose. It depends on what we identify as homosexuals’ and lesbians’ main needs.
“Marriage is not as important in Cuba as in other more Catholic countries. Here consensual pairing is more important, what matters is love.”
If her legislation is approved it would rank Cuba amongst the most liberal Latin American nations on gay issues.
Fidel Casto’s seizure of power in the 1959 Cuban Revolution was followed by the targeting of homosexuals in society who were sent to work camps and in the following decades excluded from jobs.
In 1979 homosexuality was legalised, and the President has recently described being gay as natural. However the country has no anti discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and bans gay organisations.
The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone used last weekend’s EuroPride rally to speak of his admiration for political revolutionary Che Guevara, who helped lead the Cuban Revolution, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “He would have been a leading supporter of LGBT rights and the congestion charge.”