By Yusimi Rodriguez
HAVANA TIMES — The 46th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) took place on June 13-15 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Although Cuba hasn’t been a member since 1962, and our current president Raul Castro has declared that we’ll never return, representatives of civil society like myself attended the activities running up to the event.
One of these was a meeting of the OAS’ Secretary General, Luis Almagro, with citizens from the continent, which followed the roundtables on Human Rights, Family, Democracy and Sustainable Development, the African Descent Community, Women and the LGBT Community.
Civil society in the Americas is very diverse, and at least at this meeting, (as we were denied entry to the General Assembly on Tuesday the 14th, apparently due to a lack of space) there’s a place for everyone. Amongt these groups were the so-called “pro-lifers”.
When I heard this term, I presumed they were protesting against war, the use of nuclear weapons, hunger which kills so many people in the world or animal sacrifice… But I was wrong. These groups fight instead so that women don’t have the right to decide over their bodies and claim their reproductive rights, so that gay and lesbian people can’t get married and adopt children or undergo IVF treatment. With respect to transgender people, the signs they held up shouted loud and clear for themselves: “No to gender ideologies.”
And on what grounds? Well for the family, for child rights before they’re even born, and for the most precious thing we have: life.
They are so worried about life that at no point in their participation at the event did they condemn or lament the Orlando massacre, in the USA, which took place in the early morning of Sunday June 12, at a gay nightclub.
Their arguments are based on their interpretations of the Bible. Many Christians could argue that God never said anything about homosexuality. I have known Catholics, even priests, who agree with same-sex marriage, respect gender identity and who stand up for genital surgery.
Christians could argue for hours on end about the subject, and at the end, maybe those who claim that God condemned homosexuality and transvestism in the Bible will come up on top. The question I ask, however, is what right do these people have to impose their beliefs and morals on the rest of society, those of us who aren’t Christian? I suppose it’s the same right our government had to impose atheism on the Cuban people for decades: None at all.
How exactly do same-sex marriage, reproductive rights and respect for gender identity threaten heterosexual people’s rights, those against abortion, and those whose gender identities fit in with the norm? Same-sex marriage doesn’t stop a man and a woman from being able to get married; it only ensures that those of us who love people of the same sex as us are able to do the same.
They’re against abortion, and that’s ok. I’m not a fan of this practice either, at least not as a method of contraception, mainly because of the risk that the woman runs of becoming sterile or of losing her life (if she has to resort to an underground clinic). However, the right for every woman to decide over what happens to her body stands above and beyond my opinion.
In 2013, I interviewed Brother Lester Rafael Zayas, about this subject. Even he recognized that nobody else but the woman has the right to choose, this man being a Catholic, a defender of life from the moment of conception, who doesn’t approve of abortion even in the case of rape (only if it’s been proven that the mother’s life is at risk or that the pregnancy won’t continue). What’s more, he was against a ban on abortion. However, “pro-life” groups are so concerned about the rights of those who haven’t been born that they are willing to violate the rights of those who have been born.
I spoke to one of them and she told me that she was worried by the fact that schools talk to children about homosexuality like it’s something normal. In the meeting with Luis Almagro, another woman asked if it wasn’t the parents’ right to decide what their children’s education should be on this important topic.
I think about all those slogans they made us shout at school, and the indoctrination that has existed in the Cuban education system for generations and generations. If I had a son or a daughter, I would also demand the right to decide what my children learn. I don’t know if parents know the best way to educate their children. But, just like I recognize a woman’s independence over her body, I also recognize that parents have the right to decide over their children’s education. Nonetheless, reality shows that education centered on hetero-normativity, like the one the majority of us lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals have received, isn’t enough to ensure the future of Cuba’s heterosexuality.
Although “pro-life” groups don’t take their intolerance and contempt for the freedom and rights of others to the point of committing hate crimes (at least, i don’t think they do), the philosophy that makes them stand firm in their outdated beliefs doesn’t stand too far off that of those who kill and torture others for being different. These people, amongst whom I was scared to see young men and women young enough to be my children, promote life, yes: a life without individual rights and freedom.