The Cuban government has granted more rights to the country’s gay citizens in recent years.
More than 1,000 people from LGBTQI communities marched through the streets of Havana Saturday in a proud display of their sexual and gender identities.
The 8th Cuban Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia was particularly important this year for the 20 couples that participated in a symbolic gay wedding. Gay marriage is not yet legal in the country, however there have been progressive changes regarding gay rights in recent years.
“Our family accepts us, but not society. And if tomorrow one isn’t here anymore, the other [partner] loses everything. It’s not fair,” said Raul Orta, who ceremonially married his partner 13 years ago, according to Reuters.
The gay wedding also saw the presence of Cuban and North American Catholic priests who came from the U.S. and Canada to sanctify the matrimony of the 20 lesbian and gay couples.
In the 1960s Cuba used to send people who engaged in homosexual activity to labor camps together with political dissidents, a policy that former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said was wrong. Last year, under Raul Castro’s leadership, the country’s National Assembly passed a new labor law that prohibits discrimination based on sexuality. While the new law was welcomed, many felt it should have also included an article mandating non-discrimination based on gender identity.
Saturday’s march is part of a larger awareness and empowerment campaign that started on May 5 and will continue until May 23.
Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raul Castro and director of the National Center of Sexual Education (Cenesex), said that this year the emphasis is on protecting the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and intersexuals (LGBTI) in the labor market and the workplace. “We chose this issue because Cenesex identified and proved, through studies and public judicial services, that the greatest vulnerability of this group is in the workplace and in the family,“ Mariela Castro told Cuban radio.
She also indicated that making Cuban society more aware of LGBTI rights is not merely accomplished through law. Rather it is through the efforts of educating and communicating with the public that one can stimulate discussion, reflection, learning, and spark interest on these issues, she told Radio Ciudad del Mar.
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