Cuba’s UN Vote Unknown to Cubans

Isbel Diaz Torres

The sexual rights as human rights. In the photo: Yasmín Portals, Isbel Diaz, Rogelio Diaz and Jimmy Roque.

The UN Council of Rights Human recently adopted a resolution taking a stand against discrimination among people by reason of their gender identity or sexual orientation.  The Cuban press flatly ignored the decision, even though the national delegation voted in favor of it.

This occurred almost a week ago, yet me — someone who reads the official Granma newspaper and watches the TV news daily — saw absolutely nothing about the vote.  Only today, when entering the blog Paquito el de Cuba, did I found out what had happened.

It turns out that this past June 17 the South African delegation presented the resolution at the UN.  For the first time in this body the universality of sexual rights was recognized as a human right, just as acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and genre identity were condemned.

Of the 47 member states on the Council, 23 voted in favor, 19 against and 3 abstained.   The states that supported the resolution were:  Argentina, Austria, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland, the United States and Uruguay.

Among the abstentions, standing out was the vote by China, a country whose relationship with Cuba appears to be increasingly deep.

I point this out because once before — attempting to support the African bloc — the Cuban delegation voted opportunistically in favor of eliminating explicit references to this type of discrimination in a resolution.

Let’s hope the commercial or ideological ties are not so strong with the Asian giant as to force the island to again betray its principles of defending sexual diversity and the elimination of all effective forms of discrimination in the future.

Thanks to that same blog by “Paquito” (Francisco Rodriguez Cruz) I learned that the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and some similar groups had published a statement promoting the historic decision.  Online editions of some official Cuban media outlets (Cubadebate, Granma and Trabajadores) referred to the vote, which clearly demonstrated that the Cuban press was indeed aware of the outcome.

The relevance of the fact is very significant.  Cuban activist Alberto Roque stated, “The vote by Cuba in favor of this historic resolution demonstrates a commitment by our government in considering all sexual rights as human rights, as much on the international level as in the domestic context.”

Later in his statement he stressed: “Lesbians, gays, bisexuals as well as transgendered, transsexual and intersexual men and heterosexual women who do not adopt the mandates of patriarchal power are being excluded and limited in the enjoyment of their rights.”

According to the statement from CENESEX, the resolution “proposes that the high commissioner of Human Rights conduct a study that documents discriminatory legislation and practices, as well as acts of violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in all the regions of the world.  It also includes a panel discussion for the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, where transparent and constructive dialogue will be held on the outcome of the aforementioned study, which will be completed by December of this year.”

Personally, I’m glad for so much recognition of the problem at the global level.  Nevertheless, I’m not overflowing with optimism.  The struggle for human rights is long and has always been accompanied by those who don’t recognize them because they don’t need to.

In Cuba, such a beautiful term like “human rights” — which has been the aim of historical struggles of many peoples — is looked upon with distrust and it stirs up all imaginable types of paranoia.  Something similar occurs with the term “democracy.”

I’m completely aware of the imperial limitations, manipulations and economic traps that hide behind these concepts.  Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that those of us who want to build true socialism can relinquish these qualities.  Instead we need to reinvigorate their meanings to make them truly radical.

Because of this, like Paquito I can’t I understand “how it’s possible for the Cuban foreign ministry to adopt such a firm and politically valiant posture and then not let the majority of our people find out about it? (…)  Where were the editors, writers and correspondents of Prensa Latina in Geneva who didn’t consider it important to respond in the face of an event like this, one that was unprecedented for Cuba and the world?”

The domestic battle is ours to fight.  If some think that the media have been saturated in promoting homosexuality, I would reply that the media are saturated with heterosexism and that many other messages have already worn out and become inoperative.  In addition, what we’re promoting is not homosexuality, but just the opposite: diversity.

If the reports from Geneva by the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina are viewed by the national media with any frequency at all, their failure to cover this vote by Cuba was an act of discrimination.  It’s that simple.