March 13, 2017 at 6:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Mariela Castro: Marriage does not stop hate crimes

Mariela Castro, gay news, Washington Blade

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro and niece of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, takes part in a march to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana on May 14, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro on Saturday said hate crimes remain a problem in countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

EFE reported Mariela Castro, who directs Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education that is known by the Spanish acronym CENESEX, made the comments in the Mexican city of Guadalajara after organizers of a film festival honored her for her work to promote LGBT-specific issues on the Communist island. The Spanish news agency said hate crimes were among the topics about which she specifically spoke.

“We don’t like to copy anyone,” said Mariela Castro as she discussed why Cuba has yet to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, according to EFE. “We want to be creative and look for what truly fits into the possibility of social acceptance and our reality.”

Marriage is not ‘main goal’

Mariela Castro, who is former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s niece, has publicly spoken in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

She and Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, were in the audience when Tico Almeida, the gay Cuban American president of Freedom to Work, gave a speech in Havana last May that focused on the issue and other LGBT-specific advocacy efforts in the U.S. Mariela Castro later had lunch with Almeida and Wolfson.

LGBT rights advocates who work independently of Mariela Castro and CENESEX in December 2015 launched a campaign that urged Cubans to sign a petition in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. They hoped it would spur members of the Cuban National Assembly to publicly debate the issue at their annual meeting last December.

The meeting began slightly more than a month after Fidel Castro died.

Mariela Castro, who is a member of the National Assembly, has not spoken publicly in support of the campaign that appears to have stalled.

“The main goal is not marriage; it is one of the goals,” she said in Mexico, according to EFE. “For us the main goal is to achieve equal opportunities, which was achieved in the process of working on discrimination against women.”

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in Mexico City and several states in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and a number of islands in the Caribbean that include Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saba.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions in Chile since October 2015. The country’s president, Michelle Bachelet, has pledged to introduce a marriage bill in the Chilean Congress later this year.

Independent Cuban activists with whom the Blade routinely speaks say they are ostracized and face harassment and even arrest for publicly criticizing Mariela Castro or her father’s government. Reported rates of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the Communist island are nevertheless lower than in Brazil, Colombia and other Latin American countries in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

Mariela Castro again questions Pride parades

Mariela Castro spoke in Mexico two months before CENESEX is scheduled to hold events in Havana and in the city of Santa Clara that commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

EFE reported Mariela Castro reiterated her previous comments in which she questioned the effectiveness of traditional Pride parades. She said they make the LGBT community look as though they are from a “carnival.”

“I wanted people to watch them as who they are and from their profound dignity,” said Mariela Castro, according to EFE.

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, IDAHOT, Cuba, Matanzas, gay news, Washington Blade

A march to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia took place in Matanzas, Cuba, on May 17, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • So Mariela Castro has spoken in support of gay marriage in the past, but when specifically asked about gay marriage in Cuba, her strawman response is “we don’t copy anyone.” That response underscores Ms. Castro’s demogoguery. Her dynastic family is famous for demogogery and she’s no different. Her late uncle Fidel and father Raul as an effective PR ploy spent their lives advocating for social justice and rights for others, internationally, while denying the same for Cubans on the island.

    Everything in Cuba is centralized. There are no recognized independent gay organizations in Cuba. The only legal gay marches in Cuba are those organized by Mariela’s CENESEX.

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