Young Cubans Take a Critical Look at Fatherhood


IPS reports that, while more and more young men in Cuba today are rising above cultural prejudices that condition their role as fathers, many continue to conform to traditional styles of fatherhood, often reproducing negative patterns of abandonment, with serious repercussions for the family. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

“The future father’s involvement or lack of involvement during the pregnancy is an indication of how he will behave when the baby is born,” [Raynol Pérez] tells IPS. “A good way to measure this is by the number of pregnant women who go to their medical check-ups with a man. There’s still only very few men who accompany their partners to their appointments,” this young married man, whose daughter was born when he was studying law at Havana University, says.

In a 2011 article on the role of fathers in Cuban families (published in Spanish under the title “Una mirada del ejercicio de la paternidad en familias cubanas”), psychologist Anais Ángela Chapelli revealed that the issue has for the most part not been addressed from a male perspective in studies conducted on the subject in this Caribbean island. Chapelli notes that more information is needed on how men view fatherhood and on their experiences as fathers.

There have been changes in the way fatherhood is experienced and viewed, which have been brought on by the erosion of the patriarchal system through the advancement of women’s rights, as well as by a number of increasingly widespread phenomena, such as civil unions, migration, unwed mothers, divorces, same-sex unions, blended families, and single-parent households headed by men.

However, over half a century of public policies aimed at improving the situation of women have failed to eradicate Cuba’s deep-rooted sexist culture, with strong stereotypes still dictating how fathers and mothers are expected to behave. Moreover, while there are many social efforts made to bring about change among women, very little is done to promote a similar change in men.

But sociologist Magela Romero and other young experts on the subject have observed a growing trend in Cuban families, as more and more the role of ‘provider’ – economic or otherwise – is no longer seen as an exclusively male obligation, and men are in turn more involved in domestic life and new forms of fatherhood.

But these experts also note that fatherhood still takes a backseat to motherhood. University student Emanuel George told IPS that the view that a father’s role is limited to that of “economic and material provider” is a firmly entrenched stereotype. Popular sayings such as “Anyone can be your father, but you have only one mother” perpetuate this image, George says.

Lourdes Pasalodos, a journalist, has delved further in the issue. Her book “En el nombre del hijo” (In the name of the son), published in 2009, openly addresses fatherhood problems such as abandonment and neglect, approaching them from a common-sense perspective. [. . .] Pasalodos believes a cultural and educational change is needed.

[. . .] This cultural gap may explain why the legal progress made in terms of gender equality in recent years has had little impact. As of 2007, only 17 fathers had applied to fully enjoy their right to care for or share in the care of their children during their first year of life, as provided under Decree Law No. 234, passed in 2003. Official sources say the situation has not changed much since then. This legal measure was promoted by the non-governmental organisation Federación de Mujeres Cubanas (Federation of Cuban Women or FMC) with the aim of guaranteeing the right of working fathers to take a year off work to care for their infant children in the event of the death or abandonment of the children’s mother, and to a six-month leave to take over for the mother once the exclusive breastfeeding period is over.

[. . .] While very much ahead of its time in child protection and gender equality issues, the Code of Family Law needs to be revised and amended to reflect the current situation of Cuban families, activists say. FMC and Cuba’s National Union of Jurists worked together on a new draft code and presented it to parliament several years ago, but legislators have yet to discuss it.

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