International Women’s Day 2019: Mariella Castro

As part of a month long build up to International Women’s Day Celebrations on the 8th of March, the YCL will be publishing daily articles highlighting the exemplary role played by women in the international communist & working class movement.

In today’s post, we discuss the life and work of Mariella Castro Espin, Cuban LGBT rights campaigner and daughter of Raul Castro and Vilma Espin- heroes of the Cuban Revolution.

YCLers are encouraged to host, support and participate in celebrations locally to bring the message of International Women’s Day into Our workplaces, colleges and schools, and communities.

Mariella Castro (1962) was born when the Cuban Revolution was in its infancy, as she grew up she witnessed, first hand, the successes of the Revolution. When she was born in 1962, her mother was President of the Federation of Cuban Women- an organisation whose principal aim is to further develop equality between men and women and to encourage the mobilization of women into political work and into the wider economy.

Cuba has acknowledged failures of the past to acknowledge and develop the rights of the LGBT community. Fidel Castro, in 2013 personally took responsibility for this and said that the persecution of the LGBT Community was “a great injustice”. Mariella Castro has been influential in advancing the rights of those in modern day Cuba. As director of The National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX) Castro has worked tirelessly to advocate for tolerance of the LGBT community on the island.

In 2005, Castro proposed a project to allow transgender people to receive sex reassignment surgery and change their legal gender. The measure became law in June 2008 which allows sex change surgery for Cubans without charge, making it one of the first countries in the world to do so. Today Cuba is a world leader for Transgender rights.

In 2013, Castro was elected deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba, where she has again used her position to influence the politics of the chamber in support of greater LGBT rights.

Under current constitution reform process same-sex marriage is being considered. The National Assembly and Mariela Castro have stated that same-sex marriage will be legalised through a Family Code amendment which is expected soon.

In addition to the essential campaigns in support of LGBT rights, CENESEX plays a key role in promoting contraception and in the fight against AIDS. The current HIV adult prevalence rate in Cuba is estimated to be about 0.07 percent, one of the lowest in the world and certainly the lowest in the region. This is testament to the huge amount of work that the Cuban Government have put in to eradicating HIV/AIDS. With Castro at the helm of CENESEX, this work has increased and become even more important.

Castro continues the revolutionary work of her family before her. Her work is key to the development of Cuba and her commitment to the revolution is remarkable- despite disagreements in the past, her support for the revolution has remained constant.

The work of Castro over the last few decades reminds us that the struggle for socialism must always go hand in hand with the advance of LGBT rights and liberation.