Cuba’s New Labor Code Did Not Ignore Sexual Diversity

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – Haroldo Dilla has just published an interesting article on the situation of Cuba’s LGBT community. It is a shame his analysis is based on information that is completely false and that he should misinform his readers with a take on things that is clearly biased.

Dilla asserts that the special committee of Cuba’s National Assembly, responsible for including the petitions made by the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) in connection with workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, “eliminated all references to sexual diversity.”

This can be refuted rather easily.

Law No. 116 of the Labor Code, approved in December of 2013 and made effective in June of 2014, explicitly recognizes the rights of homosexuals. Paragraph B of Article 2 directly refers to workplace discrimination:

“Every citizen who is able to work has the right to secure employment, in keeping with the demands of the economy and their free choice, in the State and non-State sectors, free from discrimination on the basis of skin-color, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, regional background, disability or any other characteristic that would prove injurious to human dignity.”

Evidently, Dilla did not follow the televised debate excerpts or, worse, wrote his article without even having read the legislation he speaks about.

That an analyst of Cuban reality should have failed to read the Labor Law by this stage in the game strikes me as almost disrespectful (even though I concede that one needs a fairly strong stomach to take on the pseudo-legal jargon of the document).

That is why LGBT activists (both “official” and not) were so happy when the law was passed. It was a real victory, which Dilla’s piece blatantly ignores, as it blatantly ignores the existence (and growing strength and visibility) of an activism that does not move in the shadow of the CENESEX, an institution whose achievements and limitations I acknowledge.

As such, Cuba has long ceased to be in the “sorry place it’s in in terms of sexual diversity.” The times have changed considerably, but there are those who insist on refuting that the Earth spins around its axis.

The situation in Caribbean nations, which Dilla knows only too well, worsens every year, what with horrendous crimes and legislations that criminalize homosexual practices. This situates these nations in a much “sorrier” and alarming place than Cuba’s reality is currently at. It is important to put things in perspective.

Our recent demands (and those of the CENESEX also) have to do with the law’s exclusion of gender identities and individuals with HIV. We believe these identities must me mentioned explicitly, with a view to guaranteeing the rights of these communities.

Transsexuals in Cuba are constantly victimized because they lack a legislation that can protect them, in a society that continues to be homophobic (this includes State institutions).

In the interests of informing readers and bringing the commentator “up to date”, allow me to add that the Guidelines of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) (guidelines that apply to all Cubans by dint of the constitution, whether we like it or not and despite the fact it is everything but democratic), also included clauses aimed at protecting Cuba’s LGBT public.

“Guideline 57. Confront the prejudices and conducts that are discriminatory on the basis of skin-color, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, regional background and other characteristics, contrary to the Constitution and laws, which undermine national unity and curtail the exercise of people’s rights.”

“Guideline 69. The audiovisual media, printed and digital press are to reflect, with professionalism and adherence to the methods inherent to each, Cuba’s reality in all its diversity in terms of economic, work and social situation, gender, skin-color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and regional background.”

This is of course not enough, but it is not so little we can simply ignore it. We must make balanced analyses based on facts.

I believe Dilla is once again trying his hand at mud-slinging. That said, I also believe his article has elements of value. One can arrive at conclusions very similar to his, despite his misinformation and the blunders of this last article.

Likewise, I share his views on the democratic shortcomings of the system and his critique of the Cuban parliament, which is as transparent as a brick.