Cuban leader Mariela Castro Espín on ‘progressive conquest of new rights’

Mariela Castro Espín at Cuba’s annual March Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2017.

Video message from Mariela Castro Espín, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and deputy of the National Assembly of Popular Power, to the webinar “What We Can Learn from Cuba’s ‘Code of Freedom’ for Families,” hosted by Women In Struggle/Mujeres En Lucha on Jan. 22.

Greetings to all, I am Mariela Castro.

There are two main milestones in the Cuban Revolution regarding family law. One was the Family Code approved in 1975, which also went through a process of popular consultation and was taken to a referendum.

This code allowed for instituting important values that are being promoted in Cuban society for equal rights between men and women, especially in family life, in the equitable distribution of educational tasks and household chores, to begin to erode that patriarchal heritage of the sexual division of labor.

That code played a very important role and was considered one of the most advanced in the world at that time. Still a heteropatriarchal code, in some aspects, and hetero-normative specifically, yet not much more could be asked of Cuban society at that stage.

Education and scientific development, especially in the field of legal and social sciences and humanities, led to strengthening of Cuban culture regarding the family and family law. Progress was made regarding the rights of women.

All of this is reflected at a statistical level, as Cuba ranks second in the world for women parliamentarians: 53% of the Cuban parliament consists of women. There is an increasing presence of women in the National Assembly of Popular Power at leadership levels. Cuban women predominate in the sciences and there are several sectors of Cuban society at a professional level where the presence of women is increasingly greater.

In Cuba, there is respect for women, but the society is still patriarchal. Although the patriarchy has been eroded and weakened by the advances of our Revolution, there is significant resistance, and that creates challenges for us.

After 47 years of the Family Code being in force with all the new elements that were incorporated, the laws in which Cuba subscribed and committed itself as a state, laws in the field of international law, in the field of Human Rights, everything that our Revolution was advancing, it was already necessary to update that code.

But it began first, with the reform of the country’s economic and social development strategy with the participation of the people with their criteria, with their criticisms and their proposals. From there, it went on to the constitutional reform, which was a substantial reform of 2019 approved in April 2019, also subject to specialized consultation, popular consultation and referendum with a very high turnout. 87% of the population approved that constitution in which the rights of LGBT people were already protected, important paths were opened, for example, for what they call equal marriage, but also to strengthen greater protection for sexual health and reproductive, sexual and reproductive rights.

‘Heart, intelligence and wisdom of our people’

There are many other elements of the 2022 Families Code that you will be able to read on this valuable document that some consider to be the most advanced in the world, that is, international experts consider it to be so.

But this code, like the constitution, was written with the heart, intelligence and wisdom of our people. And so this is also called the heartfelt code because the bonds of affection are given precedence over the straitjacket of biological bonds.

This is truly very significant, despite the opposition of some religious groups and particularly the Catholic Church, to prevent the advances of the Revolution in the progressive conquest of new rights. This has truly been achieved with the participation of our people in reaching a widely accepted code, although it was the first in which there were 33% negative votes.

But that’s fine. It shows the resistance that still exists regarding these issues and all the challenges that they generate for us to continue transforming awareness that will allow us to create an active citizenry regarding the need for social and subjective transformations for achieving an increasingly just and equitable society.

The transition to socialism is complex and individual awareness is always in the rearguard. And this is what has been happening. That is the significance. Our people have approved a constitution and a very advanced family code within the context of a socialist society of rights and social justice.

I am very satisfied with the result, but I also feel the responsibility that we still have to continue advancing to permanently educate and communicate all the elements based on science that help provide elements of analysis to monitor and evaluate the application of this new legislation in family law.

I thank you very much for your interest in this issue, and I invite you to read this valuable document that has been the result of building consensus for the 47 years that the previous code lasted. This is the importance it has, how our society is advancing by becoming more aware and moving towards a much more conscientious culture regarding the issues that this code deals with.

Thank you very much for your interest and warm greetings. Until we meet again.

Full text of the 2022 Families Code (in Spanish)

Comprehensive summary (in English)


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