Cuban President’s daughter says he’s a supporter of gay rights

The Cuban President, Raul Castro, backs greater gay rights and ending discrimination against homosexuals, his daughter Mariela, a famed sexologist, said during a colourful gay rights march in Havana—as Agence France Presse reports.

”He has done some advocacy work, speaking of the need to make progress in terms of rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” she said on Saturday.

”The Cuban President … has been talking about this issue, but he has not made it public. It is surely part of his strategy,” she added, when asked if her father backed her campaign to legalise civil unions for gays and lesbians. ”He … has said that … we cannot make progress if we continue to live with these prejudices.”

Mariela Castro runs Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education and is an outspoken advocate for the rights of homosexuals and transsexuals in Cuba.

She is pushing for passage of legislation that would legalise same-sex unions, but stops short of endorsing gay marriage. She is hopeful MPs will take up the bill sometime this year.

The president’s daughter led a colourful conga line that was part of a march through the streets of Havana attended by about 400 transvestites as part of festivities marking the Fifth Cuban Day Against Homophobia.

”Down with homophobia! Long live sexual diversity!” participants yelled. Many carried rainbow flags symbolising the gay rights movement.

In January, Cuba’s Communist Party congress resolved ”to fight against all forms of discrimination, including against sexual discrimination, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity”.

”It’s a hugely important first step,” Ms Castro said.

In Cuba, homosexuality was fiercely repressed for many years by the regime, which interned homosexuals in work camps in the 1960s and ostracised them in the 1970s under Fidel Castro.

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