David Murray (and homosexuality in Cuba)

Kim Bullimore k_bullimore at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 11 17:47:51 MST 2002

Without wanting to get to much in to this silly sectarian slinging match, I
would like to take up one point of David's.

David writes:
Despite your public gay-friendly face, it does not stop you from
uncritically supporting Fidel Castro. Remember "no homosexual can ever be a
true communist".  The CWI may have made mistakes on gay rights. But we also
have an excellent record in other respects.  In Perth our comrades spent
many years campaigning for gay rights in the most homophobic state, as well
as in Israel and other  areas.

Kim writes:
Oh please!  Rather than throwing around old shibboleths about Castro being
homophobic and something he supposedly said over  40 years ago, why don't
you drag yourself out of this time warp you seem to be in and look at what
has been ACTUALLY  happening  in Cuba for the last 20 or 30 years in
relation to homosexual rights.

  While it is true that in the early years of the revolution there existed
UMAP's.  UMAP were in existence for about 2 years in the early/mid 1960s.
UMAP  was the name given to the  groups in which housed
counter-revolutionaries.  Homosexuals were also  included in the UMAP's.
However, the UMAPs  were disbanded  when Castro and the government realised
that they were wrong in not only containing homosexuals in these groups but
people in general (The last chapter of American writer, Jose Yglesias book
"In the Fist of the Revolution" deals briefly with the existence of UMAPS
and their disbandment)

  Since that time, Cuba has moved a long way. In the 1977, the Centro
Nacional de Educacion Sexual (CNS) was founded on the  intiative of the
Cuban Women's Federation (FMC) which started work to undermine traditional
sexual prejudices and taboos. In  1979, homosexual acts were removed from
the Penal code as a criminal offence (it is interesting to note that a great
many capitalist countries that the "crime of homosexuality was still
included in the penal code in 2002)

  In 1987, "homosexual acts in public places" and "with minors" (which also
applied to heterosexuals) was removed from the penal code.  The age of
consent is 16 years for homosexuals (in Australia it is 18 years). While it
is  still illegal under the penal code for "homosexual molestation", it is a
law which deals with sexual agression and abuse, just as Cuba has laws which
deal with hetrosexual molestations and abuse.  The law which deals with
"homosexual molestation" is specifically for acts of sexual agression, and
does not  make such things as  verbal crusing illegal.

  In 1979, a number of books on homosexuality were translated and published
in Cuba which  supported homosexuality and state that  homosexuals should be
granted equal rights, respect and recognition and that discrimination should
not be condoned. In 1981,  futher books were translated and published
(250,000) which argued against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

  From 1979 to today, the CNES initiated policy and programs to help end
sexual discrimination within Cuba. In 1993, sex education workshop on
homosexuality were run throughout Cuba to explain that that homophobia was a
question of prejudice not persecution.

  Also in 1993, Strawberry and Chocolate (a great film!!), a film produced
with the aid of the government run Film industry was made  criticising
Cuban's intolerance of homosexuality and was used as a way of opening up
public discussion on the subject of homosexuality and the revolution (the
film industry can only afford to make 2-3 films a year). The film won a
swath of oversea awards. In 1995, drag queens led the annual May Day march,
joined by 2 queer delegations from the United States. Non-Cuban filmmakers
made Gay Cuba in 1995 documenting Cuban's attitudes to homosexuality.

  In the late 1980's with the first recognition of HIV/AIDS, Cuba like many
countries around the world  was not sure how to cope with the endemic. In
Cuba people with HIV were quarantined, althoughthey recieved free high
quality medical care. After much public discussion, these laws were
abolished in the early 90s and people were able to participate in wider
society. HIV patients today recieve  free health care and housing, recieve
full wages if they are able to do some work (while in other countries people
living with HIV struggle to afford decent medication).

  I have worked with HIV/AIDs patients in Australia, and while I don't
condone the quarantining of people in Cuba in the late 1980s - the treatment
that people in the so-called western democracies was in some ways far  worse
(some of the things that happened here and still happen here are totally
outrageous and discriminatory, but I won't go into that now).

  Today Sanatoruims have been built in most if not all provinces of Cuba
(Cuba has 13, I think). Family doctors in each community have been trained
to help provide the best medical care for their patients and social workers
and sexual education teams work to educate the communities to help prevent
discrimination. A massive HIV/AID education program has been developed to
educate the whole population about how to not only avoid transmission, but
also how to care and welcome people with HIV/AIDS.

  Homophobia may still exist in Cuba but it is not state sanctioned, and in
fact the Cuban state for the last 2 decades has been implementing programs
to educate against homophobia. So while homophobia may still exist, it is
homophobia which is a result of machista culture of Latin America, not
because it is sanction or promoted by the state.

  It also should be noted that in Cuba, the individual homophobia that may
exist is not the type of homophobia that exists in Australia or many other
Westernised countries which makes homosexuals at  risk of being assualted,
bashed, battered or murdered. Some  Cuban people may still have personal
prejudices against homosexuals, but they recognise that homosexuals have the
right  to dignity, equality and non-discrimination.   In Australia and in
other countries, homophobia which kills still exists and attidudes which
allow this to happen is still condoned by our so-called political, church
and secular leaders (as well as the media).

  The Cuban government has made mistakes in the past, but it has made a
conscious effort to rectify these errors in the last 20 -30 years, working
to consciously to elimate prejudice. Can we say the same about the leaders
and governments of countries like Australia, the USA, Britian etc etc?

  For this I think Cuba should at least be given some credit and while we
should acknowledge Cuba's past mistakes and not condone them, we should
acknowledge their current efforts and talk about the situation as it is
today and give them their due, instead of pretending nothing has changed
when it has.

  Kim Bullimore

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