Cuba: new Family Code goes beyond gay marriage

HAVANA (AP) — Since they were born Geiner, nine years old, and his sister Kimberly, two, have been the kings of their grandparents’ house. They run around, play, eat mangoes and plums that they take from the leafy fruit trees in the background or help in the orchard. That is their home, they know no other.

“You love a child, but the grandchildren… you go crazy with them,” Sura Victorero, 56, the grandmother of the children, told The Associated Press with pride. her husband, a son -father of the minors- and the children.

But if there were a misunderstanding in the family or one of the parents decided to take the children and prevent her from seeing them, Victorero could not do much because the law does not protect her. Something that could now change.

Adoption by same-sex couples and same-sex marriage were at the center of the controversy over Cuba’s new Family Code, subjected to three months of popular consultations that ended this weekend.

However, far from the spotlight, the new norm contains other novel points such as the extension of the rights of grandparents to guarantee their communication or give them “parental responsibility” for their grandchildren, something vital on the island where they usually live in the same home for up to four generations and emigration causes many minors to be raised by the elderly.

Since February, 79,000 popular meetings have been held throughout the country to debate the Family Code project in which 6.5 million Cubans participated, the National Electoral Council reported last week.

They were small assemblies in neighborhoods and study centers in which citizens expressed their support or rejection, made proposals or raised their doubts.

The new Family Code is one of the regulations that must be updated after the reform of the constitution in 2019 and its drafters sought to reflect personal relationships in all their diversity, although some issues have generated resistance from conservative groups.

According to the established mechanism, now the Assembly of People’s Power -the Cuban Parliament- must take the proposals of the consultations, reformulate the project and set a date for a referendum, possibly before the end of the year, to convert it into law.

“When the Assembly raised the need to take the Code to a popular consultation and referendum, precisely because it is such a broad Code that generated so many contradictions…really, it made me a little impatient,” Mariela Castro, admitted to AP. deputy and director of the National Center for Sex Education and who participated in the drafting commission of the new norm. “But I understood that it was necessary, that it was going to be useful.”

Castro -daughter of former president Raúl Castro- is one of the most recognized promoters of the rights of the LGTBI community on the island and for her, taking the debate to the streets will help educate and generate dialogue with sectors that still oppose resistance.

The current Code is from 1975 and at the time it was also submitted to a referendum.

The new Code goes beyond equal marriage, the possibility of adopting by same-sex couples or non-profit surrogacy.

It also imposes sanctions for domestic violence, for example at the time of a separation of property, legally incorporates stepmothers and stepfathers as parties -giving rise to blended families- and regulates the regimes of communication with grandparents and stepfathers in case of divorce as well as the possibility of giving alimony or having custody of minors.

At the same time, it contemplates optional property regimes for married couples, the possibility that children bear the surnames of their mother and father in the order that they have it and extends the protection so that the elderly or disabled are not left vulnerable.

According to the report of the National Electoral Council, 61% of the population presented favorable proposals to the text, but in the streets the opinions are disparate.

“I do not agree with allowing the adoption of children by people of the same sex or wanting to formalize this type of marriage because for me that is not the structure that a family should have,” Melissa Álvarez, told the AP. a 21-year-old tourism student.

Like Álvarez, some churches spoke out against both gay marriage and another new concept of the Code that eliminates “patria potestas” and replaces it with “parental responsibility”, giving more weight to the decisions that children and young people make for themselves. .

Evangelical groups made an unusual activism against the new Code claiming that the Bible establishes that marriage must be between a man and a woman to give rise to the “original family” and exhorting their parishioners to vote against it.

For its part, the Catholic Church released a document in which it recognized the value of many parts of the law for the protection of people but rejected same-sex marriage. The letter from the ecclesiastical hierarchy suggested that only conflicting articles be taken to a plebiscite.

Even so, the defenders of the new Code feel excited about its approval.

“I think the best thing about the Family Code is that all people can find themselves in it,” said Francisco Rodríguez, a blogger and activist. “This is a social and cultural evolution.”

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Andrea Rodríguez is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

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Cuba: new Family Code goes beyond gay marriage