Anti-Homophobia Campaign in Cuba

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The National Center for Sexual Education (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual, CENESEX) launched its 2009 “Campaign for the Respect of People’s Sexual Orientation” in late March. The campaign activities began on March 26 with a debate forum carried out in a filled-to-capacity conference hall at the headquarters of the Federation of University Students (FEU) at the University of Havana. Participating were students, professors, CENESEX staff, and representatives of the gay community.

The testimonies of men and women who defended their sexual orientation against the grain of prejudice and misunderstanding showed those present a new and different reality. Some students spoke of the dire need to educate the community, particularly because of the emotional damage caused by stigma. Alberto Roque, a gay medical specialist and member of the Cuban Communist Party stated that some people go as far as to commit suicide because of their sexual orientation, and insisted that society must learn to have “a sense of respect; I’m not talking about tolerance or acceptance, but a true respect for diversity.”  Another student, Ema, agreed and confirmed Roque’s statement by admitting that, being a devout Protestant, she had tried to take her own life when she discovered she was lesbian — something she now accepts and no longer hides.

Under the theme of “Diversity Is Natural,” the crusade aims to “contribute to the education of the entire society, with an emphasis on university youth, in respecting free and responsible sexual orientation and gender identity as exercises in equality and social justice.” The institution has established a broad program in support of sexual diversity in Cuba since 2004. Its director, Mariela Castro, explains that CENESEX cannot undertake these efforts alone; therefore, the campaign is targeting youth, “the future professionals and leaders of Cuban society.”

The campaign will sponsor educational events, group discussions, workshops, video-debates, talks, and exchanges intended to promote reflection and raise consciousness among university students and the community. Ms. Castro also announced that this year’s celebration of International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia will be held in Havana on Saturday, May 16. It will be dedicated not only to youth, but also to the family, “so that fathers and mothers can better understand their homosexual or transsexual children.”

For full article by Patricia Gregg, see http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=6768

Photograph (CENESEX logo) taken from www.habanaenlinea.cu/noticias/marzo09/26/03.html

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