Being a Responsible Father in Cuba with Paternity Rights

By Ariel Dacal Diaz

(El Toque)

Paternity: Photo: Iris Celia Mujica

HAVANA TIMES — He goes with her to every doctor’s appointment. He looks after her healthy and stable diet. Both share plans and errands. They both experience the joys and stress of waiting. He supports her when she does exercises that prepare her for the delivery. Fortunately, this image is becoming more and more frequent in Cuba’s public and private spaces.

However, when the day comes, he is anxious and wants to be nearby, but he isn’t allowed into the delivery room. He must wait downstairs at the hospital. He isn’t allowed to see his child’s birth. He doesn’t have a right to be at the birth and be the responsible father he has chosen to be. Where is the law that bans him or allows him to be present?

There are other examples of this same contradiction. For example, they decide to share their care time for the baby in the first twelve months, legally protected by maternity/paternity laws. He takes part in the reproductive workload, that’s to say, he cares for his children. Both receive similar wages for the same job, therefore, sharing this child care isn’t a financial alternative but an emotional choice.

That’s all fine up to there, but in our social environment, doubts, questions and judgements appear about the attitude of both parents, which are translated into phrases like: “it’s the mother who knows how to look after a baby”, “a man around the house becomes stupid”, “he just doesn’t really want to work.”

Being a responsible father creates social tension in situations like this, but it is a right protected by the law. Nevertheless, this tension includes society’s strange tendency to resist change and to shame those who try to do so. Shouldn’t we be taught that this is a natural right?

The same thing happens when the child goes to outside care, when they must register at a day-care center to be more precise, and all the important questions are directed at the mother. Her health, her professional details, her situation and her account of how the first year of maternity went. At that moment, the father’s information can also be added, but it’s not compulsory.

He takes part in the adaptation process. He pays attention to the explanations given. However, the reference, the last word and consent belongs to the mother. “Ah, of course, the father too.” Being a responsible father doesn’t only imply an attitude or resisting norms, it is also an educational challenge.

Let’s take a couple who decide to separate as an example. Through a lawyer, they try and agree on a timetable to see and care for their child. Both parents have parental responsibility, but custody and physical care of the child only belongs to one of them. The law stipulates that unless she is proven to be incapable, the mother is given priority. He, who assumes the paternal role to this child, suggests that they both share custody and physical care of the child. He also proposes that ground rules in both spaces be set and agreed so that the child’s education isn’t affected.

The law doesn’t recognize this option as a right. It is only allowed if it is the mother’s expressed desire. In the end, they agree on a flexible timetable, but it’s unfair, because this alternative and loving father isn’t protected by the law in any of these circumstances. Generally-speaking, the current law in force emphasizes “traditional” parental duties and doesn’t establish the rights of those who want to go the extra mile.

Being a responsible father is included as a subject of gender equality. It forms part of more comprehensive processes such as feminist struggles and the search for a new kind of masculinity. It essentially empowers liberating gender relations.

With a greater or lesser understanding about these processes, the truth is that there are many fathers who are now appearing in public and private spaces, as a stable, loving and available figure, taking on another with their paternity another masculine role. Shouldn’t the law enshrine this option as a right?

Traditional mother and father roles tend to shift. Discipline, rigor, scolding as the only resource, the emotional distance and “being” on the street, are being blurred as paternal characteristics. Communication, loving companionship, sensitivity, responsibility for household chores are beginning to transfigure that character we have inherited and reproduced and are now showing men taking on their new role in the family.

Having a personal choice is a necessary step, but it isn’t enough. Another kind of paternity demands another kind of law. Laws need to be designed so that fathers can enjoy this new paternity fully. It also demands a permanent process of learning, full of nuances which deal with this subject in all its aspects and its liberating potential.

3 thoughts on “Being a Responsible Father in Cuba with Paternity Rights

  • But the rest is correct!

  • You are so wrong! Fidelity was born in 1949, not 1956.

  • This is obviously a heartfelt plea with much justification. On a personal level, in Scotland I experienced only being allowed to take my expectant wife to hospital and then leave being dependent upon making telephone calls to ascertain whether she was alright and whether the baby had yet arrived. By the time our last child arrived, attitudes had improved and I was allowed to be present at the birth – one of the most outstanding and wonderful moments in my life!
    But I am interested in Ariel Dacal Diaz saying that currently in Cuba, mother’s have preference. That is a change from the time when Fidel Castro first became a father. In 1955, Fidel Castro’s wife Mirta Diaz-Balart divorced him for his various infidelities, but she was pregnant at the time, giving birth in 1956 to Fidel Angel Castro Diaz-Balart, known as “Fidelito” who was to become a nuclear scientist and who committed suicide in 2017.
    Fidelito was one of four children born to four different women in 1956 fathered by Fidel Castro. The other three were:
    Alina Fernandez
    Francisco Pupo (known as Panchita)
    Jorge Angel Castro Laborle
    However, as father, Fidel Castro claimed custody of Fidelito as Cuban law gave him that right. Poor Mirta who married Dr. Ernesto Nunez Blanco a political enemy of Castro perforce moved to Spain leaving her son behind, and then having two daughters. In 2006, following the death of her husband, Mirta moved to the US and eventually Fidel Castro relented and allowed her to visit Cuba and reunite with her son, by that time over fifty years of age.
    Fidel Castro had twelve children in total by six women plus a liason with Celia Sanchez until her death in 1980, following which he married Dalia Soto de Valle who had already had five sons by him.
    In most free societies today, if the parents of a child have separated or divorced but are otherwise of good character, custody is shared. It is interesting that the laws to which Ariel Dacal Diaz refers must have been introduced by the Castros.

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