Can you imagine the citizens of "land of the free and the home of the brave" actually having less rights and freedoms than the communist country of Cuba?
Well as crazy as it may sound, this flight of fantasy may become an ironic grim reality if Mariela Castro Espín has her way. Does her name ring a bell? She just happens to be the daughter of Raúl Castro Ruz , acting president of the country and the niece of Fidel Castro.
Cuba has come a long way in the area of queer equality. "Following the 1959 revolution, Cuba’s communist government embarked upon a pervasive effort to rid the nation of homosexuality, which was seen as a product of a capitalist society. Through the 1960s and 1970s this campaign included the frequent imprisonment of lesbians and gays (particularly effeminate males) without charge or trial, and confinement to forced labor camps. Parents were legally required to report their gay children." (I'd recommend watching or reading Reinaldo Arenas's autobiography, Before Night Falls to find out more about this repressive period.)
However, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1979 (this didn't happen in the US until 2003) and since the 1980s, Cuban society has become more welcoming to gays and lesbians. Toward the end of the decade, literature with gay subject matter began to re-emerge. When I was in Mexico on a language course, they had a special screening of Strawberry and Chocolate (produced by the government-run Cuban film industry). I was so glad I got to see it and would love to see it again.... in my native language!
So what does all this have to do with Ms. Castro? Today I heard on the radio (103.9 Proud FM) Ms. Castro has just introduced proposals that would "update the country’s Family Code to include the legal recognition of same-sex relationships and transgender people (source). The proposals include recognizing same-sex couples and extending to them all the same rights and privileges that opposite-sex couples enjoy, including inheritance and adoption rights. “One cannot continue perpetuating discrimination and exclusion as a value,” she said. "
"If the Cuban Communist Party and National Assembly support the reform package, Cuba will become the first country in Latin America to accept same-sex couples and extend to them the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. Legislation passed by Columbia’s Congress and endorsed by President Alvaro Uribe that would have given gay couples together for two years a full range of entitlements and benefits was defeated in the Colombian Senate June 20. Supporters have vowed to reintroduce the legislation for another vote. Costa Rica, Argentina and Brazil are also considering recognizing same sex-unions. Currently, Mexico City; the Northern Mexican state of Coahuila; Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital; and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande Do Sul are the only places in Latin America that recognize same-sex couples."
During this season when many cities across the United States and Canada celebrate the queer diversity of their citizenry through various "Pride" events, I find this news to be very ironic. Don't cha think?