First published at www.frfi.org.uk
In December 2021 the Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power approved the 23rd draft of the updated Family Code. The document includes laws regarding families, marriage, domestic issues and the care of dependants. Legislators consulted the Cuban people throughout the drafting process, complying with Covid-19 related restrictions by using email and video conferences. From February, Cubans all over the country will have the opportunity to study and debate the contents of the draft, edits will be made as a result and a final draft will be subject to a referendum before it is ratified. Mariela Castro, head of the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education, laid out the intention behind the changes: ‘It will guarantee the rights of groups of people whose realities were not sufficiently understood at the beginning of the revolutionary process… This bill does resemble the society in which we live: a complex, diverse and plural society’.
The existing Code has not changed since it came into effect on International Women’s Day 1975 following intense debate by the Cuban Women’s Federation and other mass organisations. It brought in vital protections for women and children, and enshrined the equality of women in marriage, the home, workplaces and education. The new draft Code being debated introduces important changes for legalisation of same-sex unions after progress was stalled in 2019, when a new constitution was approved by referendum. After opposition was galvanised by evangelical churches, an amendment which would have opened the door to legal same-sex marriage and adoption was removed, with the stipulation that a process to draft a new Code would begin within two years.
The draft of the new Code includes a broader definition of families to reflect contemporary Cuba. It specifically states that marriage and de facto unions are ways in which some Cubans choose to live and specifies that these unions will be acknowledged without any discrimination based on sexual orientation. These passages, if approved, will effectively legalise same-sex marriage in Cuba, advancing LGBT rights far ahead of most other Caribbean countries. The broad language regarding the varieties of family types also recognises the fact that fewer Cubans are choosing to get married in general. Almost 200,000 Cubans got married in 1992, but by 2012 the number was less than 50,000. The draft recognises family relationships that are not based on consanguinity and seeks to provide extra legal protection for children, older adults, people with disabilities and their caregivers.
At a press conference following the approval of the draft, Minister of Justice Oscar Manuel Silvera Martínez explained that ‘[The new draft] is the result of diagnosis made around Cuban families, of the judicial practice on the island and of the advances in the legislation of other countries. This is a modern, updated and revolutionary blueprint for the way it addresses the advances of comparative law on these issues and its ability to adapt it to the Cuban context’. The strength of people’s power and democracy, enabled by Cuban socialism, has shown once again that it puts the rights and needs of the Cuban people first.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 286, February/March 2022