Mariela Castro proposes penalizing clients to fight prostitution in Cuba


At the recent International Symposium on Gender Violence, Prostitution, Sexual Tourism and Human Trafficking [Simposio Internacional Violencia de Género, Prostitución, Turismo Sexual y Trata de Personas] held in Havana, Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, publicly addressed the problem of growing prostitution on the island. Castro said that it is necessary to adopt measures to combat this growth by penalizing the clients rather than the sex workers.

After the symposium, at a roundtable of Cuban Television, Castro declared: “Today we must act. We can not simply say that we agree to be against sexual exploitation as a form of sex work. [. . .] We cannot say that we want to protect our children and adolescents from sexual exploitation. We should not just want it, but rather, think carefully to figure out how we’re going to do this.”

Amir Valle, author of the book Habana Babilonia o Prostitutas en Cuba [Havana Babilonia or Prostitutes in Cuba], told the New Herald that “the Cuban government, although it has all the information and field studies from which to position itself, has never really accepted the social reach of this phenomenon.” Therefore, Mariela Castro’s proposal constitutes a great step forward that may, nevertheless, remain on the academic level without ever materializing.

Experts agree that, in a country where prostitution is not illegal, it is difficult to adopt a measure that penalizes prostitutes’s clients because it is inconsistent with the idiosyncrasy and socioeconomic reality of Cuba.

However, Valle said that, since 1993, members of the island government had discussed “the idea of penalizing the client as an essential deterrent, not taking into account that, in the Cuban case, any solution should first present political recognition of the existence of the problem,” which, according to him, has not yet occurred.

Although the academic discussions dealt with issues such as male sex workers, censorship on the subject in academic settings, and the complexity of addressing prostitution “because of moral prejudice and ideological divergences,” in the political arena, issues such as male or transsexual prostitution, or the growing prostitution on the island have not been explored.

For original article (in Spanish), see

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