I think many people in the United States believe that Cuba is a dictatorship. That’s certainly what we’ve been told since the beginning by the U.S. ruling class and its government. This message is conveyed through mainstream news and education. By sheer repetition it can feel true. Plus Cuban traditions, culture, history and politics are different than ours — and different, for many, equates to wrong.
Well, all I can say is that Cuba is certainly an odd dictatorship! I wrote in January 2019 about a constitutional referendum that was in progress. I described how the people of Cuba participated in thousands of community and workplace meetings where they debated the proposed document provision by provision. The new Constitution ratified through that process requires that a ‘Families Code’ be enacted by the National Assembly of People’s Power this year. A public consultation process is now underway.
Granma, the official voice of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee, reports that 78,000 sites have been identified where public meetings are being held from February 1 through April 30. Transportation is provided as needed and digital participation is also possible. In addition, opinions are being sought from Cubans abroad. Granma reports,
All Cubans living abroad, permanently or temporarily, will have the opportunity to participate in the collective construction of the country’s new Families Code, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ director general of Consular Affairs and Cuban Residents Abroad, Ernesto Soberón Guzmán.
During a recent press conference, the diplomat reported that a section has been created on the Nación y Emigración website (www.nacionyemigracion.cu), on which opinions and proposals may be recorded. He added that the number of times a person may access the site and express his or her opinion is not limited, nor is migratory status taken into account.
Granma explains that “Participants will be able to make proposals for additions, modifications or deletions, either verbally or in writing. The consultation is not conceived to debate opinions; but rather to ensure that the population is heard; nothing will be submitted to vote, all proposals will be recorded… [A] drafting commission has been organized to ensure the publication of more than one million copies of a summary of the consultation.”
Rights & Equality
An underlying principle of the Families Code is that “Rights cannot be abridged on the basis of stereotyped criteria or prejudices, which can lead to acts of discrimination.”
Granma‘s coverage describes the perspective of Yamila González Ferrer, Vice President of the Union of Cuban Jurists:
In her opinion, the new Families Code must support the Revolution’s social justice project that is based on human dignity, and the effective equality of all men and women in our country.
Effective equality, González said, is not only formal equality, but real equality, valuing differences and equity. Thus, all measures must be taken to ensure that people who have historically been vulnerable can achieve and truly enjoy this equality before the law, which is expressed in our Constitution.
Another big challenge, according to González, is emphasizing and strengthening family responsibility — from the emotional, educational, and economic point of view — in the care of its members, including mothers or fathers who assume upbringing of their sons or daughters alone; people with disabilities; older adults, given the aging of Cuba’s population; members facing challenges as a result of sexual orientation or gender identity — to reaffirm the protective and affective concept of the Cuban family to which we aspire.
Parents, Youth & Gender Identity
Granma published one article addressing some of the myths or misunderstandings about the draft Families Code that are circulating. It included a detailed clarification regarding parental rights and the rights of youth, particularly on matters of gender identity.
▪︎ Myth: The concept of progressive autonomy is established, allowing minors to make decisions without parental consent, implying that they will be able to change their name from Peter to Mary, and vice versa, or even change their sex through surgery and hormone treatments.
▪︎ Reality: As has been explained previously, in the pages of this newspaper and by renowned jurists and psychologists, progressive autonomy does not imply that your son or daughter will be able to capriciously do whatever he or she likes, without considering the consequences.
No, this concept is about parents listening to their children and taking their opinions into account, depending on the age and maturity of the child or adolescent, although the adult, of course, will make the best decision for the child.
Let’s take a simple example that has been seen in the homes of most Cubans, on the small screen, via the soap opera Tú.
Don’t we all think that Yanko’s mother, whose son loves baseball and dreams of playing in the big leagues, should pay more attention to his preferences and not force him to study English and chess, if that is not what he wants? We don’t approve of the child skipping school or lying to his mother, but we do wish that more effective, considerate communication could be established, with parents setting limits but also listening, seeking to understand and not simply transfering their own frustrations or personal desires into their children’s lives.
Anyone believing that progressive autonomy means children under 18 years of age can change their names according to their sexual orientation, or undergo surgery and receive hormone treatments, reflects a lack of knowledge of these procedures in Cuba.
First of all, the Families Code does not address these issues in any of its Articles, as it is simply not within this code’s competence, which, in due course, will be the responsibility of the Civil Code. Nonetheless, in no case can any decision related to gender identity be made before a person reaches adult age. Our authorities and health centers do not allow minors to make such decisions. It’s that simple.
Articles & Video on the Families Code
Click here for all the articles published by Granma discussing the new Families Code and the consultation process.
This video in Spanish shows a consultation meeting held in the city of Guantánamo, Cuba.
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