Castro daughter pushes for LGBTQ change in Cuba

Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raul Castro, recently advocated for LGBTQ rights in Cuba, including marriage.

During a May 4 press conference in Havana, Castro said her organization–National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX)–would send proposals to the island nation’s National Assembly (Castro is a member).

CENESEX, Castro said, would advocate in July for a measure which would to amend the Cuban constitution. The charter currently defines marriage as a union existing between a man and a woman. Additionally, the organization plans to argue for reformation of the island’s penal code, and its family laws.

The news comes a month after the Castro family passed on its executive power. Raul Castro, brother of long-time president Fidel Castro, was succeeded by current president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Cuba’s historical treatment of LGBTQ citizens has attracted condemnation from other nations. After the successful 1959 Cuban revolution, a series of repressive hetero-normative measures were passed.

Beginning in November 1965 and ending in July 1968, over 35,000 citizens (including LGBTQ people, and other individuals deemed unfit for service in the military) were punished under the law.

They were sent to Military Units to Aid Production or UMAPs—agricultural labor camps in the Cuban province of Camaguey. An estimated 200 such camps existed, featuring terrible conditions.

Until 1993, Cuba shut up HIV/AIDS-infected people in state hospitals. Beginning in 1979, Cuba repealed sodomy as an official crime. Cuban hospitals have given citizens free sex-reassignment surgery since 2008

If national policy changes, Cuba will be a latecomer on the Latin American LGBTQ political scene. According to the Washington Blade, “Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico City are among the jurisdictions in Latin America in which same-sex couples can legally marry.”