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Cuban LGBT community calls out government for canceling parade

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender

Cuban LGBT community calls out government for canceling parade

Postby smix » Wed May 08, 2019 11:38 am

Cuban LGBT community calls out government for canceling parade

URL: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba ... SKCN1SE042
Category: Politics
Published: May 8, 2019

Description: HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban gay rights activists denounced the government’s decision to cancel this year’s parade against homophobia, accusing it of snatching away their main platform at a key moment as the Caribbean nation is set to debate legalizing same-sex marriage. The state-run National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), which has spearheaded advances in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in recent years, announced on Monday it would not hold its 12th annual conga. CENESEX, which is headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Communist Party leader Raul Castro, said international and regional tensions meant the parade could not be carried out successfully. It did not offer further details, leaving Cubans to speculate the cause — from the country’s cash crunch to its siege by the Trump administration. “We thought the conga.... was already approved and consecrated - an error,” playwright and LGBT activist Norge Espinosa said in a Facebook post. “To not permit it is a sign that compels us to return to the closet, to know we are not welcome, that hope can be undone, if we do not have what is needed to fight.” Cuba’s government has long tightly controlled public spaces and allowed few marches other than to express support for the government. Havana says it faces attempts by dissidents, directed by its old Cold War foe the United States, to undermine it. The conga in Havana was an exception that had become a regular occurrence. Despite its having sent gays to work camps in the early days of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Cuba has become a regional leader in LGBT rights in recent years, particularly in the Caribbean where some countries still have anti-sodomy laws. It guarantees rights such as free sex-change operations, although it has delayed a decision on others like gay marriage. Some LGBT activists are seeking to organize an alternative event on Saturday, when the conga was scheduled to take place. “Let us march for our rights,” Yadiel Cepero wrote on a Facebook event page he created, although it seems unlikely the government would allow an unauthorized march to go ahead. Some activists speculated that the government canceled the conga because it did not want to allow a public forum that could be diverted to criticize it at a moment when it was facing rising political hostility from the Trump administration. Many believe the decision was also motivated by the popular backlash last year against the government’s proposal of including a change in the new constitution that would have opened the door to gay marriage. In a rare non-state Cuban campaign, evangelist churches attacked the proposal, which eventually was removed from the new constitution. “One of the most likely reasons is perhaps that they are once more ceding to pressure from religious fundamentalism that has shown itself to be quite active recently,” said activist Isbel Diaz Torres. The government deferred the decision about same-sex marriage to the update of the family code, to be decided on by referendum in the next two years. Activists say that means they have to work fast on changing views on the LGBT community, although that is difficult when they already cannot mobilize themselves independently of CENESEX and now cannot participate in the parade either.

Cuban LGBT activists defy government, hold unprecedented indie pride parade

URL: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba ... SKCN1SH0JJ
Category: Politics
Published: May 11, 2019

Description: HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban gay rights activists held an unauthorized independent pride parade in Havana on Saturday despite the Communist government warning against it and calling it subversive, an unprecedented show of civil society in the one-party state. More than a hundred Cubans chanting “long live a diverse Cuba” and carrying rainbow flags joyfully marched nearly one kilometer (0.6 mile) from Havana’s Central Park down to the seafront boulevard before being stopped by dozens of security officials. At least three activists were arrested by plainclothes policemen while others were ordered to disperse given the activity did not have an official permit. “This moment marks a before and an after for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community but also for Cuban civil society more generally,” said independent journalist and LGBT activist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero. “Social media is playing its role and civil society demonstrated it has strength, and can go out onto the streets if necessary, and from now on the government will have to take that into account.” Activists called for the march after the state-run National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) earlier this week abruptly canceled its 12th annual conga against homophobia - Cuba’s equivalent of gay pride. CENESEX, headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Communist Party leader Raul Castro, said in a statement that certain groups were planning to use the event to undermine the government, emboldened by the escalation of aggression by the Trump administration against Cuba and its leftist ally Venezuela. The United States has for decades financed often covert programs to promote democracy on the island and undermine the Communist government. But many LGBT activists said they felt the government was reacting more to pressure from evangelical churches, which have a growing following in Cuba and have campaigned against the expansion of gay rights. CENESEX denounced the alternative parade as a “provocation” and several activists say they received threats either anonymously on social media or from state security in person not to attend it - not that it stopped them. “This isn’t a political march, this is a celebration to give the LGBT community visibility,” said Myrna Rosa Padron Dickson.
Activists promoted the march on social networks thanks to the expansion of the internet in Cuba in recent years that has more broadly seen increasing numbers of Cubans mobilize online over certain issues, sometimes apparently managing to influence policy. The government for example postponed the full implementation of a decree clamping down on the arts after an online campaign protesting the law, and stepped back on regulations governing the private sector after entrepreneurs and experts complained. So far, however, the government has retained tight control over physical public spaces, mostly restricting marches to expressions of support for the government, like the recent Labor Day parade. The conga in Havana was an exception that became a regular occurrence, and a reminder that the government, which once sent gays to work camps in the early days of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, had made considerable advances in LGBT rights in recent years. The country guarantees rights such as free sex-change operations and forbids discrimination on the basis of sexuality, in a region where some countries still have anti-sodomy laws. Some LGBT activists say they felt the cancellation of the conga was a sign those rights are being eroded, possibly because a recent public consultation over a new constitution revealed that there was more opposition to the community than previously thought. Many Cubans expressed their opposition to a change in the draft constitution that would have explicitly opened the door to gay marriage. Evangelical churches also ran unprecedented campaigns against the change, which was eventually watered down.
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