Fidel Castro’s niece pushes gay rights into Cuba


Mariela Castro Espín will welcome hundreds of delegates for International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) this May to champion LGBTI rights, including legal same-sex partnerships, on the island, JEAN PAUL ZAPATA reports for The Gay Star News.

And Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of president Raul Castro, is so proud she’s welcoming over 400 delegates from London, South America and the Caribbean to look at the best strategies to eradicate discrimination and pave the way for gender equality in Cuba.

The fact international groups are meeting in Cuba to discuss LGBTI rights signals a significant change not just within Cuba’s society and government, but also reflect a shift in the global community’s approach to Cuba.

A regional delegation is scheduled from 6 to 10 May under the theme ‘Unification of Latin America and the Caribbean for LGBTI Rights’ in collaboration with the Latin American division of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

Gloria Careaga, Secretary General for the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) said in a statement: ‘For many people, it’s important to learn the processes, strategies and achievement that have been developing in Cuba’ with regards to LGBTI rights.

‘The conference includes discussions on specific themes to guide the protection of our rights: health, education, homophobia, political participation, art, among others,’ Careaga added.

The London-based Cuba Solidarity Campaign has also organized an eight-day delegation to take place 8 to 15 May.

Politicians and LGBTI activists are expected to take part in over 50 workshops, lectures, panel sessions, film shows, and cultural and community initiatives taking place during the IDAHO celebrations.

Castro Espín has placed herself at the forefront of the LGBTI rights debate in Cuba and around the world as director of CENESEX, the Cuban National Center for Sex Education.

While Cuba has a historically poor human rights track record, particularly with regards to sexual rights, the island’s government has come leaps and bounds in recent years thanks in large part to Castro Espín.

Earlier this month she announced the inclusion of the letter ‘H’ in the LGBTI acronym to include heterosexual people because, as she argues, heterosexual people are part of the solution to achieving unity through diversity.

Last year she made global headlines as she embarked on an international tour to cities including San Francisco and New York to liaise with LGBT groups and activists.

While dissenters criticized the US government, particularly President Barack Obama, as wrongly approving the tour in the face of the country’s other human rights violations, Castro spoke on the country’s undeniable achievements, particularly in women’s and trans rights.

Cuba is one of the only countries in the world whose government fully funds gender reassignment surgeries including hormones and counseling. Additionally despite the US embargo in Cuba, the island’s government and health officials have managed to maintain one of the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the America.

Because the US embargo on Cuba has been in place since 1962, many realities facing Cuba and its LGBTI community continue to remain under speculation and only interpreted through certain media channels. This year’s IDAHO delegation in Cuba represents an opportunity to actively engage the island’s LGBTI community directly.

To participate in the IDAHO delegation from London, email the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to register your interest and for more details.

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