Global Voices

Cuban activists launch detailed agenda for LGBTIQ rights in Cuba

"What could be considered the first document of its kind in Cuba [...] includes 63 specific demands and is divided into two sections: legislative measures and policies, plans and strategies."

“LGBT Flag of Cuba.” Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

On May 11, 2018, a score of Cuban intellectuals and activists launched an exhaustive agenda for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, intersexuals, trans, queer and intersex people in Cuba. According to the submission:

Basados en los principios de Yogyakarta sobre la aplicación de la legislación internacional de derechos humanos en relación con la orientación sexual y la identidad de género, en la Declaración de derechos sexuales de la Asociación Mundial para la Salud Sexual (WAS) y en virtud de las próximas reformas constitucionales y jurídicas en Cuba, integrantes de la comunidad LGBTIQ cubana nos hemos reunido para promover esta agenda.

Based on the Yogyakarta principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, in the Declaration of Sexual Rights of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) and due to the upcoming constitutional and legal reforms in Cuba, members of the Cuban LGBTIQ community have met to promote this agenda.

The document begins by considering that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent to human dignity. The goal is not only for the text to work as a collective statement but also as a proposal that contributors can continue to feed with ideas and suggestions. The text also proposes specific lines of action that can be used as a starting point for research and for developing public policies, as Isbel Díaz Torres explains in Havana Times.

The agenda is the first of its kind in Cuba, compiled entirely by members of the public and focuses on the rights of LGTBIQ people. In addition, it includes 63 specific demands and is divided into two large sections: legislative measures and policies, plans and strategies.

Cuban film director Yaíma Pardo set an important precedent with the demands collected in her documentary Causas y Azares (Causes and Chances, subtitles in English available). Another precedent was the text written by activist and blogger Alberto Roque. The documentary highlights numerous analyses regarding the current state of the LGBTQI community's rights in Cuba and the ideological and institutional changes necessary to ensure their full exercise.

Mercedes García and Yasmin Silvia Portales Machado, two activists who participated in the documentary, clarify important points to understand the context for recognizing and protecting Cuba's LGBTIQ community. In principle, they explain how the Cuban government does not acknowledge the complexity of gender compositions or the diversity of human sexuality. García assesses Cuba's shortcomings in this regard:
Lamentablemente el proyecto social socialista heredó esa discriminación, esos falsos conceptos, esa ignorancia sobre la sexualidad humana; y en el caso Cuba se ha demorado, para mi gusto, demasiado en enfrentar esa realidad y transformarla

Regrettably, the Socialist social project inherited that discrimination, those false concepts, that ignorance regarding human sexuality; and in Cuba's case, it has taken too long, to my liking, to face that reality and transform it.

Machado expands this point and highlights how the historical and cultural background of Cuba's political ideology prevents distinguishing citizens’ diverse lives:
El Marxismo surgió como una filosofía en occidente de un hombre blanco. No reconoce la diversidad de las sexualidades ni de las identidades que las personas cargan como parte de su cultura. No todo es la lucha de clases. Cada clase social está atravesada por un montón de identidades culturales y sexuales… y laborales… y artísticas. Reconocer eso es lo que permite que las políticas [creadas] para emancipar a las personas atiendan verdaderamente a las personas y no a los ideales [que el Estado tiene] de las personas… [es ahí] donde ha fallado hasta ahora el socialismo.

Marxism appeared in the West and was a philosophical [construct made by] a white man. It does not recognize the diversity of sexualities or identities that people carry with them as part of their culture. Not everything has to do with the classist struggle. Each social class has a bunch of cultural, sexual, work and artistic identities. Recognizing that is what allows the policies [created] to emancipate people to truly serve the people and not the [State's] ideals regarding people … [that's where] Socialism has failed so far.

The Agenda for LGBTIQ rights in Cuba promotes a broad and inclusive debate on human rights and requests that their demands be considered by the National Assembly of People's Power, the Council of Ministers and those who make policies, plans and strategies in Cuba.

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