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Cuba to Host International LGBT Conference Despite Criticism Over Human Rights Violations

ILGALAC

Next week Cuba will host the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGALAC) Regional Conference.

This will be the Communist country’s first time to host an international LGBT conference, a realization that isn’t sitting well with some who feel the conference shouldn’t take place in a country with such a lengthy record of human rights violations.

The Washington Blade reports:

CastroMariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX,) is president of the local committee that organized the ILGALAC conference.

Mariela Castro did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment. CENESEX’s website prominently features information about the ILGALAC conference that includes a preliminary agenda.

“As the host country for the sixth ILGALAC Regional Conference, Cuba is not exempt from the problems of the region’s LGBTI communities,” states the organization. “The humanistic nature of the Cuban Revolution has focused on the human being in his teleological purposes since its beginning. Although the Cuban LGBTI movement does not have the organization of other international movements, the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the country is now evident with more impact and achievements.”

Late last year, the Cuban parliament amended the country’s labor law to ban anti-gay employment discrimination. Many LGBT advocates also credit Cuba’s condom distribution campaign and sexual education cirriculum with producing one of the world’s lowest HIV rates.

Still, other argue Cuba’s less-than-stellar human rights record cannot be ignored

“Hosting a conference on LGBT rights is just another farcical attempt by the Cuban regime to pretend they care about anyone’s rights,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told the Blade in a statement. “The sad reality is that the Cuban people are harassed, beaten and bullied for having a point of view that differs from the regime’s. This desperate move to seem tolerant does not even come close to obscuring the repressive reality on the island.

Ignacio Estrada Cepera, founder of the Cuban League Against AIDS, noted that the Cuban government forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria until 1993. Other LGBT activists in the country point to the forced labor camps to which the government sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military service during the 1960s. 


Mariela Castro Leads March Against Homophobia in Cuba: VIDEO

Mariela_Castro

Mariela Castro led hundreds of people through the streets of Havana in a march against homophobia on Saturday, al Jazeera reports:

People danced La Rampa through the crowded city, chanting "Homophobia no! Socialism yes!" as they made their way through Havana for more than an hour. Cuba has previously persecuted homosexuals, particularly during the 1960s when being gay was outlawed and homosexuals were interned in work camps.

Mariela Castro said she is optimistic that the communist nation will eventually legalise gay marriage.

"What is most complicated is the time it takes to overcome prejudices," she said.

"We must change consciousness."

Watch a BBC report on the march and the situation for gays in Cuba, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mariela Castro Leads March Against Homophobia in Cuba: VIDEO" »


Mariela Castro Visits Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: VIDEO

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Cuban gay rights activist and daughter of President Raul Castro is in Philadelphia to pick up an award from Philadelphia's Equality Forum after a brief tussle with the State Dept. over a visa approval, which she was granted last week.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

The AP reports:

Mariela Castro spoke briefly to reporters during her sightseeing tour. Asked about the health of her uncle and father, Castro replied: "They're wonderful, and I learn a lot from their example."

Commenting on the gay rights movement in the U.S., she said, "In this election especially, they showed that they form a very important vote in American society."

A married mother of three, Castro leads Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, which is part of the island nation's public health ministry. She is the country's most prominent gay rights activist, having trained police on relations with the LGBT community and lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. She was elected as a deputy in Cuba's parliament in February.

Continue reading "Mariela Castro Visits Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: VIDEO" »


State Department Reconsiders, Approves Mariela Castro for Visa to Pick Up Gay Rights Award

Last week I reported that Mariela Castro, the Cuban gay rights activist and daughter of President Raul Castro was being denied a visa to travel to Philadelphia's Equality Forum to pick up an award.

CastroThey have reconsidered, CNN reports:

Initially not expected to receive a visa, the official said the case was "looked at again" and "the restriction on her visa has been lifted, which will allow her to travel" to the event on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues...Contacted by CNN on Monday, the organizers said they had not received official confirmation that Mariela Castro would attend. She is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion on May 4 and to receive an award from the Equality Forum as an "International Ally for LGBT Equality."


State Department Denies Mariela Castro Visa to Pick Up Gay Rights Award in Philadelphia

Mariela Castro, the Cuban gay rights activist and daughter of President Raul Castro, is being honored at Philadelphia's Equality Forum but the State Department has denied her a visa to pick up the award, the AP reports:

CastroState Department spokesman Noel Clay said he could not comment on the case because visa records are confidential.

Mariela Castro, the niece of retired leader Fidel Castro, is director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education. As that country's most prominent gay rights activist, she has instituted awareness campaigns, trained police on relations with the LGBT community and has lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions.

Guillermo Suarez, spokesman for Cuba's United Nations Mission, confirmed that Mariela Castro was in New York on Thursday attending meetings related to the U.N. population conference in Cairo in 1994. She is one of the experts designated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to work on the 20-year follow-up to the action plan adopted in Egypt, Suarez said. "That's why she asked for the visa and it's the reason for her presence in New York," he said.

Cuban diplomats are barred from traveling more than 25 miles from Manhattan.

The Equality Forum released a statement, which read in part:

“Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend. For those who needed a visa, all past visas have been approved,” stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum.  “It is shocking that our State Department would deny Ms. Castro travel to a civil rights summit – especially one held in the birthplace of our democracy that enshrines freedoms of speech and assembly.”

“Mariela Castro runs the leading Cuban LGBT organization that offers support and services to LGBT youth and seniors, provides HIV and STD education and prevention, and combats homophobia,” said Lazin. “These are shared values that deserve the right to be heard regardless of political systems.”


Cuba Elects First Trans Woman Lawmaker, Adela Hernandez

CubanprideAdela Hernandez made history in Cuba this week after winning a municipal election and becoming the island's first transgendered elected official. And it's quite a turn around from her experience growing up on the communist island:

From ABC News:

Adela Hernandez, a biologically male Cuban who has lived as a female since childhood, served two years in prison in the 1980s for "dangerousness" after her own family denounced her sexuality.

This month she made history by becoming the first known transgender person to hold public office in Cuba, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.

In a country where gays were persecuted for decades and sent to grueling work camps in the countryside, Hernandez, 48, hailed her election as yet another milestone in a gradual shift away from macho attitudes in the years since Fidel Castro himself expressed regret over the treatment of people perceived to be different.

"As time evolves, homophobic people — although they will always exist — are the minority," Hernandez said by phone from her hometown.

Cuba has slowly but surely been making headway on LGBT rights: Activists there have held gay pride "strolls" and Mariela Castro, daughter of current president Raul, has been advocating for civil unions there. Hernandez's election is just another step in the right, rather than the "Right," direction.


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