Current Affairs

Castro’s niece pushes for gay rights in Cuba

Lydia Malmedie July 11, 2007
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Almost a year after Cuba’s president Fidel Castro temporarily resigned from power due to his ill health, human rights are still under threat on the island.

At the same time improvements of LGBT rights are in sight.

There is a change in attitude towards LGBT people in the Caribbean dictatorship under Fidel’s brother Raul Castro, who holds the position of interim head of state.

To a great extent, this change in policy has been pressed for by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul Castro.

In charge of the government’s National Centre for Sex Education, Ms Castro has been recognised as a supporter of LGBT issues.

Following Fidel Castro’s coup d’etat in 1959 and the Cuban revolution, LGBT people were persecuted and imprisoned.

Now the Communist Party is set to bring forward a law which would legalise same-sex unions, grant adoption rights to same-sex couples and give lesbians access to reproduction services.

Changes are also being made to accommodate trans people’s need in terms of name and identity changes but also hormone treatment and surgery.

“It’s an important precedent for recognising all differences, including ideological differences and differences of opinion,” Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a spokesman for a coalition of social-democrat groups, told IPS/GIN.

A document made public by a dissident rights group, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, on Thursday, discredits the situation regarding “civil, political, economic and certain cultural rights” as still “unfavourable.”

In their paper the group stresses that although there are now less political prisoners than there were at the end of last year, 200 people imprisoned for their political beliefs is still intolerable.

They claim that the downward trend also deceives that fact that alternative sentences to imprisonment have been introduced.

The legitimacy of the group’s findings is being contested by the Cuban government.

The authorities regard the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation as another US-sponsored attempt to cast a bad light on Cuba.

The Foreign Minister of Cuba refers to progress in the sectors of health care, employment and education as examples for the improvement of living situation of the population.

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