The “Family Code” that llows same-sex marriage in Cuba

The Caribbean island has just voted in favor of the "Family Code", which allows several liberal rights such as equal marriage in Cuba, but still does not allow democratic freedoms .

Women's hands placing ring on her fingers

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LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: El “Código de la Familia” que permite el matrimonio igualitario en Cuba

Cuba always occupies the last positions in democracy indices in Latin America. The lack of free elections, freedom of expression and political persecution are signs of concern within the international community. However, and paradoxically, the Caribbean island recently expanded the freedoms and rights of minorities through a referendum.

With a turnout of more than 70% of the electoral census, Cubans approved the "Family Code", a series of regulations that allow marriage of same-sex couples, surrogate gestation and the distribution of parental rights, among other measures. The approach had a great receptivity among the voters.

Support for the new measures exceeded 66% of voters, while NO only obtained a little over 33% . This indicates that 2 out of 3 Cubans are in favor of the new progressive policies. It is   a country where religion does not play an influential role; just over 65% declare themselves Christian. However, syncretism and fusions with African religions and beliefs coexist; and it is a country that has officially called itself atheist.

In this way, Cuba becomes the eighth Latin American country to allow same-sex marriage, after Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay, along with some Mexican states.

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Compared to the last referendum, held in 2019, turnout has dropped by around 10%. At that time, Cubans voted for changes in the constitution such as the recognition of private property; limit presidential terms to two 5-year terms; criminalize discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, or disability; create the presumption of innocence in the judicial system and restore the position of Prime Minister, eliminated in 1976.

Despite several changes favorable to an increase in democracy, there were several groups that denounced the 2019 referendum and branded it as a mask to hide the violation of human and political rights on the island. Organizations such as the OAS and the Cuban Human Rights Observatory warned that this text lacks partition and plurality. Likewise, they pointed out that it was an imposition of the Cuban Communist Party, the only party allowed in the Caribbean country.

Something similar is being seen during this latest democratic exercise. Various groups celebrate the approval of minority rights within society, but warn of the lack of a consolidated and free democracy.

What Did the Cubans Approve of the New "Family Code"?

In addition to measures such as same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples and surrogacy (not for profit), it also includes measures to eliminate gender-based violence and prohibit child marriage. Likewise, it protects the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, allows stepmothers and stepfathers to appear as guardians and prevents domestic aggressors from being chosen as guardians of minors.

The Paradox of Cuban Democracy

Despite experiencing one of the most important democratic processes in recent times, Cuba precisely lacks a free democracy. Several international organizations, such as Human Right Watch, have warned of the strong repression and political persecution against opponents of the Díaz-Canel regime.

In 2021, the British magazine The Economist (of center-right ideology) described Cuba as the second country with the worst democracy in the region, only surpassed by Venezuela. The regime imposed by Fidel Castro surpassed countries like Nicaragua and Haiti. The island was ranked 142nd, out of 167 political regimes on the planet, with a score of 2.59 out of 10, which leaves it as an authoritarian regime, according to the media.

One of the main causes of the deterioration of liberal democracy on the planet, according to the magazine, was the pandemic and the restrictive measures taken by governments for reasons of public health policies.

The Risks of Putting the Rights to Be Voted

Despite the fact that the Cuban referendum voted in favor of minority rights, it is not always valid to put the forgotten rights of others into consideration for the majority.

Examples such as the holocaust, slavery and racial discrimination in South Africa show how the dogmatic power of majorities is based on democratic rights to discriminate against minorities. This is why (and despite the fact that LGBTI+ rights are more popular day by day) democratic elections are not the ideal way to guarantee rights and well-being for minorities, especially when they have historically been discriminated against.