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Cubans approved same-sex marriage in politicized consultation

Six decades after Fidel Castro incarcerated homosexuals in forced labor camps and sent them to Florida during the Mariel boatlift, Cuban same-sex couples will be able to marry and adopt children after a new family code was ratified with the 67 percent of the vote in a controversial referendum on Sunday.

The new code was ratified with the favorable vote of only 47 percent of eligible voters — 3,936,790 of the 8,447,467 voters on the electoral roll voted Yes. The total turnout was 74 percent, electoral authorities said, an abstention rate unusually high for Cuba, where the government often pressures citizens to vote.

While perceived by LGBTI activists as a victory, the results also send a clear message of disapproval of the current government led by Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has repeatedly said that voting Yes was a show of support for the revolution and socialism.

The new family code expands the rights of same-sex couples, who can now marry and adopt children. It includes other measures, such as the recognition of the “progressive autonomy” of children and adolescents and the possibility of expanding the family through a surrogate mother.

“I am very happy,” said Maykel González Vivero, an LGBTI activist and editor of the independent magazine Tremenda Nota. “I believe that a great, new stage is opening, in which we are going to have the chance not only to live on equal terms with the rest of the citizens, but also to access practical benefits that we have demanded for so long, that tange people from the past could not have and died waiting.

González Vivero said that the activists will continue working to guarantee that the new family code is followed, to promote a law against gender violence as well as to obtain protections for transsexuals.

Before the referendum, Díaz-Canel acknowledged that the new family code collides with the machismo that still lives in Cuban society and said that he did not expect it to be approved “unanimously.”

Religious groups and the Catholic Church actively opposed it. And some of the proposals unsettled parents concerned about the new code’s replacement of the principle of parental authority with “parental responsibility,” a more loosely defined term that some say could be used by the government to retaliate. against dissidents and separate them from their children.

But the political use of the family code by government officials and state media, trying to present the referendum as a democratic exercise and the Yes vote as a sign that the population supports the government, discouraged many Cubans who voted No or they just stayed home.

Almost two million people voted against it, 33 percent of the 5,892,705 valid votes cast, the National Electoral Council reported Monday.

Many activists and critics of the government had called for abstention on social media, using the hashtag #endictaduranosevota, arguing that the referendum was a farce. But other critics of the government questioned that strategy.

Daniel Triana, artist and LGBTI activist, lamented on Twitter that the political opposition in Cuba “does not have a viable proposal.”

“What they are very clear about is that they want to block the Code only for going against the regime,” he wrote.

He said he had been campaigning for Yes precisely to put past experiences behind him, such as Castro’s forced confinement of homosexuals to labor camps known as UMAPs in the 1960s.

“The campaign for the Yes has been lying and excessive; there are more than a thousand political prisoners and a broken country,” he said. “Still we have to snatch that Yes.”

This story was originally published on September 26, 2022 5:46 p.m.

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Profile photo of Nora Gámez Torres

Nora Gámez Torres is the Cuba/US-Latin American policy reporter for el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. She studied journalism and media and communications in Havana and London. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from City, University of London. Her work by her has won awards by the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists.//Nora Gámez Torres studied journalism and communication in Havana and London. She has a doctorate in sociology and since 2014 she has been covering Cuban issues for the Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. She also reports on US policy towards Latin America. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists.

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