Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raúl Castro, and Director of the Cuban Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), announced the launch of a campaign to demand respect for the freedom of living one's sexual orientation.
The campaign, which was announced yesterday, will combat homophobia in the Caribbean island through messages and activities developed by and targeted at younger generations.
The Center, according to the AFP, will sponsor a series of weekly academic and public events at the University of La Habana, including public screenings of HBO's "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (which portrayed the life of three separate lesbian couples living during different points in time) and - wouldn't you know it! - Gus Van Sant's "Milk" (in which Sean Penn portrays Harvey Milk).
Penn has been criticized for writing about his recent visits to Cuba and Venezuela - and Presidents Raúl Castro and Hugo Chávez, respectively - and painting a mostly favorable picture of life in both countries under each authoritarian figure (here is the latest). This has come, specifically, in light of his portrayal of Harvey Milk and the reported violations of human rights against gays in these countries (ehem, even I piled on Penn back in December).
But Penn must be laughing at critics based last week's news that Venezuela might soon grant some partnership rights to same-sex couples and yesterday's news that Mariela Castro is broadening her long-time effort to challenge homophobia in Cuba.
Among critics, few acknowledge that there have been advances on LGBT rights in either country and that's the basic flaw in their criticism. Cuba has jumped ahead leaps and bounds from Fidel Castro's sorry LGBT rights legacy. Chávez, not so much. But it's great to know that both countries seem to be engaged in increasing the recognition of rights for their LGBT populations.
- Official site for Cuba's "Diversity is natural" campaign site here