Crime & Justice

Cuban government: Same-sex marriage is social justice

Havana, Feb 10 (EFE).- Same-sex marriage is an act of “social justice,” the deputy director of the Cuba’s state-run National Sex Education Center (Cenesex), Manuel Vazquez, told EFE in an interview.

The judge and activist for LBGTIQ+ rights defended including same-sex marriage in the revised Family Legal Code, an important legislative reform not exempt from controversy and now going through the three-month popular consultation process.

This initiative by the Cuban government, which also deals with gender violence, under-age marriage and surrogate pregnancies, is an attempt by the authorities to modernize the law regarding emotional, sexual and family relationships, given that the current law dates back to 1975.

If ultimately approved, the law would be a watershed for a country and a government with a marked homophobic past.

In Vazquez’s judgment, it is “social justice” to expand, reformulate and redesign marriage as a legal institution to “democratize” access to it, given that up to now it has been restricted to heterosexual couples.

The official stance on the matter is one of most debated elements within the Family Legal Code, given that it has encountered the opposition of the Catholic Church and several social sectors since it was first proposed four years ago.

The LGBTIQ+ activist said that this discussion is “necessary, urgent and pressing for Cuban society” and it should be a priority on the political agenda of a socialist state like Cuba.

His experience as an auxiliary Cenesex professor, he said, also has led him to consider that any legal rule needs to go through a process of “education, raising awareness and formation.”

“That’s so it … better serves those who handle those legal rules and those affected by them, whose rights are reflected and guaranteed (in it),” he said, adding that in the case of the Family Legal Code such a process is “indispensable.”

Vazquez said that the process must occur not only within the formal institutions but also in the communities and within “any space in our society where it is suitable.”

He criticized the stance of the Catholic Church and other conservative sectors, who are seeking – he said – to “restrict the list of guaranteed rights this bill proposes.”

“In a certain way it comes into clear contradiction with constitutional postulates like human dignity,” the deputy director of Cenesex – a center headed by sexologist and Cuban lawmaker Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raul Castro.

Vazquez also responded to criticism from some sectors of the LBGTIQ+ community who are questioning holding a popular consultation on a matter that, they say, affects a minority.

In that regard, he said that “a popular consultation is healthy for any legal regulation, since the essence (of the consultation) is not to approve it or not but rather to democratize the process of preparing and refining the rule.”

He said that the popular consultation is “an organized space where all persons … have the opportunity to dialogue about the regulation, and propose elements that were not taken into account” previously.

He also said that another question is the referendum on it – which must be held after the popular consultation, during the second half of 2022 – and he downplayed criticism of that by sectors of the LGBTIQ+ community.

Vazquez also emphasized that it’s not same-sex marriage that is being submitted to a referendum, but rather the entire reform package pertaining to the Family Legal Code. “This is about subjecting to a referenduM a legal rule that includes many more questions than those directly related to LGBTIQ+ people.”

He added that the challenge for LBGTIQ+ people is not to question why this bill is being submitted to a referendum “but rather to ask ourselves how we’re going to contribute to ensuring that the process results in a victory.”

Another of the questions being asked of the bill concerns independent activists’ demand for a specific law regarding gender violence, an issue included in the bill, albeit along with other kinds of aggression and abuse within the family unit.

Vazquez said that the Code “is not going to resolve the issue of gender-based violence or what occurs within the family situation,” although he remarked that its contribution could be one of the things Cuba needs to provide “a comprehensive and integrated response to those problems.”

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