IDAHO marchers say no to homophobia at work
More than 1,000 people from LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Intersex) communities marched through the streets of Havana on 10 May in a proud display of their sexual and gender identities.
The 8th Cuban Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was particularly important this year as it marked the first time that the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) had been involved, with a key theme being the creation of workplaces free from stigma and discrimination.
The March formed part of two weeks of activities from 5-23 May to mark IDAHO which included talks, seminars, galas, and awareness raising activities in Havana and Las Tunas province in central Cuba.
Mariela Castro, director of the National Centre of Sexual Education (Cenesex), said at the opening press conference on 5 May, that this year the emphasis is on protecting the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and intersexuals (LGBTI) in the labour market and the workplace: “We chose this issue because Cenesex identified and proved, through studies and public judicial services, that the greatest vulnerability of this group is in the workplace and in the family.”
She highlighted the importance of informing and educating the Cuban population in the need to accept and respect free and responsible sexual orientation and gender identity, rights which when not respected by all, become a problem which generates suffering and exclusion.
IDAHO activities in 2015 kicked off on 6 May with a two panel discussion in the CTC, regarding how to make work places spaces of inclusion.
On Saturday 9 May, following a conga along Calle 23 (or La Rampa as the street is popularly known) the crowds, many carrying both Cuban and LGBTI multicoloured pride flags, crammed in to the Pabellón exhibition terrace to hear speakers and singers and watch videos and dance performances.
Twenty couples also participated in a symbolic gay wedding. Gay marriage is not yet legal in Cuba, however there have been progressive changes regarding gay rights in recent years.
Addressing the crowd, Mariela Castro said: “This Conga has been a true expression of participation of the Cuban people, who, together with the government, state institutions and civil society, have decided to include themselves in this great campaign for social inclusion in our country.”
She recognised that although the inclusion of a recommendation against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the Work Code is an achievement, the incorporation of the concept of gender identity continues to be an unfulfilled demand.
“Cuba has advanced in legislature with the recent inclusion of the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the Labour Code, although gender identity was not included”, but “Soon!” she added. “However, laws are not enough to ensure the full enjoyment of the rights of LGBTI people in the workplace. Awareness raising programs are necessary to unlearn the stereotypes and prejudices that harm the rights of everyone.”
Celebrating the return of the Five and the role of the LGBTI community in the struggle for their release she urged them now to show the same solidarity to demand the release of Puerto Rican independence fighters, “and especially Oscar López Rivera.”
“We also demand an end to the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed by the United States against the people of Cuba. The blockade is the main obstacle to our full development and to guaranteeing our rights, including those of LGBTI people,” she concluded.