Saturday, December 21, 2013

Historic: Cuba protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation (Report)

Cuban parliament as they debated adding adding anti-LGBT discrimination language to the island's labor laws (via CubaDebate)
In what Cuban LGBT advocates are calling a historic victory the Cuban parliament has reportedly adopted changes to the island's labor codes to include language that explicitly bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Blogger Francisco Rodriguez who is better known by his nom de plume Paquito El De Cuba broke the news on Friday evening with a series of tweets in Spanish that read as follows:

"Experienced a countless number of emotions today at the Parliament. We now have the 1st law that protects gays, in this case at the workplace. The intense parliamentary debate left it almost for certain that the labor law will also ban discrimination based on gender identity. [President Raul Castro's daughter] Mariela Castro proposed banning discrimination based on gender identity and obtained the support of Christian and intellectual parliamentary leaders."

The parliament is currently taking a look at suggested changes to the labor code and approving them section by section during a series of parliamentary debates which began on Friday.

In a follow-up blog post in which he expanded his thoughts Francisco stated that a majority of the parliament voted in favor of banning discrimination based on sexual orientation at work ("We succeeded! The first Cuban law to protect LGBT people's rights").

He also said that while other protections had yet to be approved Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro and newly elected member of the parliament, stood up and called for additional language banning employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity, HIV status and disability.  Francisco says that while some deputies spoke against the measures they received immediate support from Miriam Ofelia Ortega Suárez who is also the first woman to be ordained as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Cuba as well as deputy Pablo Odén Marichal who is an Episcopalian pastor as well.

Cuban vice president Miguel Díaz-Canel, who also has a seat in the parliament, said he recognized the political value of Mariela Castro's proposals and suggested the creation of a parliamentary commission to study and implement the suggestions.  President Raul Castro who led the Friday parliamentary sessions backed the proposal and a majority voted in favor of sending the additional proposals to a committee.

The specific language banning employment discrimination specifically based on sexual orientation was approved by the same majority vote and is, in effect, a done deal according to Francisco.

Writing before the vote took place blogger Camilo Garcia - better known as k1000g - wrote that, if passed, it would "be the first time in the history of Cuba when there is a bill explicitly protecting the rights –specifically at their working environment– of the people who have decided to live openly in contrast with heterosexual norms" ("On the eve of a significant step").

Camilo ends by writing the following:
It also constitutes a valuable step, because it was the citizenship participation that brought this issue to the legislation. It happened without any public action, because –as expected-- the national media did not say a word about it during the numerous press reports they have published in the last few months during this process... Something like this makes us think in two things: It may be a demonstration that the perception of the Cuban people about sexual orientation is changing, slightly for good, and that people have lost their fear to talk about it and to defend openly their rights openly. Then we are also talking about an important step against patriarchal power in Cuba... It will also be an action of historic fairness ¿How many people we know that haven’t had access to a job, or have left their profession, due to homophobic actions? ¿How many we know who has suffered in silence all their lives, or have taken more radical decisions –emigration or even suicide– as a result of homophobia? It is clear that this step brings more challenges. Among them, the necessary changes in regulations not to leave the new Working Code to fall on deaf ears. The subject of “gender identity” is still pending because –although people don’t understand it– trans people may not be homosexuals… and they still remain excluded from this piece of legislation. Besides, there’s still an urgent need of a wide and effective education campaign among the general population that addresses respect to sexual rights. In May 2013 the ILGA map recognized that 66 countries have adopted explicit protection rules over these peoples. Cuba might be number 67 and keep taking new significant steps… because it is important to work out on policies that protect the rights of all people – and including sexual orientation as it was done at the 2012 Party Conference – but it is more important to make those commitments real by making them the law.
During the Friday session President Raul Castro also honored the late former South African president and human rights giant Nelson Mandela.

UPDATE #1: In a previous post before the law was approved Francisco took a look at the pluses and minuses of the measure and highlighted removal of language that would have protected Cubans from employment discrimination based on "political opinion" which had been included in a first draft.  Francisco called it a major step back.

UPDATE #2: Michael Lavers at the Washington Blade touched base with some of the leading critics of the Cuban government in the U.S. regarding this post. None of them were aware of the developments but they try to walk back some of the statements in this post.

Cuban-born Republican U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was particularly dismissive of any claims that the Cuban government might be advancing on LGBT rights telling the Blade as follows:
The tyrannical regime in Cuba likes to fool those who are easily fooled but, unless there are human rights for all, there can be no true rights just for gays. One would have to be quite gullible to give any credence to reports that the non-freely elected sham of a parliament has passed an non-discrimination law regarding individuals who are LGBT. The Castro regime allows no freedom but it knows how to sugar coat its horrid human rights record by promoting a law that will never mean a thing. The Cuban people deserve freedom, whether they are gay or straight. Liberty knows no gender identity.
You can read more here.

UPDATE #3: Rep. Ros-Lehitenen tweets:
UPDATE #4: Well known Cuban government dissident Orlando Luis Pardo, taking notice that language prohibiting discrimination based on political opinion was eliminated from the bill, took to Twitter to express his displeasure.

"CUBAN POLITICAL APARTHEID," he writes adding a link to Francisco's blog post, "You can be LGBT or black in Cuba but not a Democrat of anti-Castro".
To be updated as more information becomes available.


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