Cuba is undertaking its most significant political change in over 40 years, and the government is encouraging citizens to get involved. Thousands of community meetings are being held across the country, so people can share their thoughts on the new draft constitution.
The proposed 224-article new constitution is designed to modernize the nation by recognizing the right to own private property and opening the door to the possible legalization of same-sex marriage, among other economic, political and social changes.
Through a process expected to take months, and a series of meetings, the document — the new constitution — will replace the current 1976 Soviet-era Constitution
The newly-elected Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel who replaced Raúl Castro in April, said the approval process would unify the Cuban people and underscore the “genuine democracy” of the nation, the New York Times reports.
Acknowledging that Cuba and the world had changed since 1976, he said the new realities meant the constitution was “obliged” to be updated, and he called the reform “deep”, the BBC reports. In the 1960s and under former Cuban President Fidel Castro, gay people were sent to forced labour camps, along with criminals and dissidents. They reportedly were subjected to beatings and verbal abuse.
But this new constitution comes with a setback for LGBT people in Cuba.
After a series of protests by evangelical churches and citizens in public meetings on the new constitution, Cuba decides to eliminate inclusive language that promoted the legalization of gay marriage from the draft of her new Constitution.
Earlier, Gay rights advocates had proposed — through a parliamentary commission responsible for drafting the constitution — an elimination of the description of marriage as a union of a “man and woman”, and a reversal to the union of “two people” with “absolutely equal rights and obligations.”
According to a report by Aljazeera, “Cuba’s National Assembly has said language opening the way to the legalisation of same-sex marriage will be removed from the draft of the country’s new constitution to respect all opinions.”
Homosexuality is a divisive issue in Cuba, and while many younger, urban citizens and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists welcomed the amendment, a majority of Cubans appeared to reject it.
The elimination of gay marriage appears to be the only major change to the draft of the Constitution. State media said that Cubans had made 192,408 comments on the language, with a majority asking to eliminate it.
The government affirmed on Tuesday, 18th December 2018, that language promoting the legalisation of gay marriage would be removed from the draft.
According to the Cuba National Assembly, the constitution would instead be silent on the issue, leaving open the possibility of a future legalisation without specifically promoting it.
The Thomas Reuters Foundation describes this as one of the 2018 setbacks for LGBT+ people around the world and The Rustin Times couldn’t have put it any better.
Although there seems to be a glimmer of hope for Cuba as same-sex marriage could still be included in Cuba’s family code which is due to be updated in 2019. Cuban LGBTI activist, Mariel Castro agrees. In a recent facebook post she writes, “It has not been yielded at all, it has been reformulated taking into account all the criteria but without conceding the coverage of rights”.
This new constitution will replace the 1976 constitution and will be submitted to the referendum in February 2019.