The Cuban Communist Party is considering granting legal recognition to same-sex unions, as health officials prepare to authorise sex-change operations, the director of the Cenesex sex education centre in Cuba has said.

The proposed change to Cuban family law would put members of same-sex unions on a par with heterosexual couples, psychologist Mariela Castro, who is the daughter of acting President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel, told EFE.

Cenesex, which was founded in 1989 as a department of the Public Health Ministry, approached Cuba’s parliament two years ago with a proposal to overhaul the 1975 Family Code to recognise the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals. But it is the Communist Party that will decide whether the proposal becomes law.

“We are receiving suggestions and debating adjusting the proposal so it is more flexible and has more chance of being approved,” Mariela Castro told EFE.

The principal needs of Cuban homosexuals “are related to the right to their recognition as consensual couples, as non-matrimonial couples, but that authorities recognise their property and inheritance rights in those non-legalized unions,” she said.

“That is their principal interest. They are not interested in marriage, they are not interested in adoption, because in Cuba there are hardly any children to adopt.”

She added that besides legal recognition, gays, lesbians and transsexuals in Cuba want respect: “Let no one feel the right to humiliate them, nor harm them, nor exclude or reject them, that we strengthen within the family this ethic of accepting everyone and of not being discriminated against for sexual orientation.”

The Public Health Ministry in Cuba is currently in the process of approving regulations that would allow sex-change operations.

Mariela Castro said that a team of Cuban physicians is already in training to perform such procedures.

In an interview with EFE last August, the 45-year-old psychologist said her struggle for the equality of the sexes and gay rights would “enrich the Cuban Revolution.”

But she added that the task is not an easy one in a “patriarchal” society where many remember the UMAP labour camps where homosexuals and the ideologically suspect were interned in the late 1960s.