I. introduction



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Women





  1. Over the course of this year, and in 2013, the IACHR has received information about abuses committed against women human rights defenders in Cuba. Various civil society organizations have drawn attention to abuses committed by police and paramilitary forces against the Ladies in White.




  1. The IACHR has also received information that Afrodescendant women are more vulnerable to being victims of different forms of violence. According to Cubalex, the situation of Afrodescendant women is critical because they are traditionally victims of discrimination on three levels: by reason of their sex, race, and extreme poverty. Afrodescendant women generally live in fringe zones, usually located in periurban districts with high crime and poverty rates, often popularly referred to as "black neighborhoods.”470




  1. Cubalex has expressed concern that there is no legal framework for combating violence against women in Cuba and that nothing is done to eliminate this problem, including domestic and sexual violence.471



  1. Children and adolescents





  1. Boys, girls, and adolescents make up 22% of the Cuban population.472 The IACHR notes that important advancements have been made in the promotion of their rights and guarantees, specifically with regard to reaching the millennium development goals.473 Along those lines, the third report submitted by the State to the UN reports higher rates of primary and secondary school enrollment, at 99.7% and 90.3% respectively.474 In addition, Cuba has reported especially low child mortality rates in the past five years; in 2012, the rate was 4.6 out of every 1000 children. However, the Commission has been informed that the nutritional situation of children and adolescents is still problematic. For example, the number of babies born with low birth weights has increased.475




  1. The Commission notes with particular concern that despite repeated recommendations made by international bodies, the age of majority in Cuba continues to be 16 years, contrary to the stipulations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.476 Furthermore, as of that age adolescents are criminally responsible as adults, although there is the possibility of reducing sentences for individuals between 16 and 20 years of age.477 This is even more concerning with regard to adolescent victims of crimes, for example boys and girls who have been used in prostitution and pornography, considering the broad powers granted to legal authorities in the application of “re-educational security measures that include internment in specialized institutions for those prostitutes who engage in crime-related activities.” Adolescents are likewise vulnerable to being exploited as child labor because the law has established that individuals under the age of 18 can enter the job market as adults.478




  1. Recently, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Cuban State to present information between May and June of 2015 on the number of adolescents between 15 and 16 years of age enrolled in the Military Register since 2007.479 Specifically, it is of concern that adolescents have been observed to enter military preparation and training activities, and to participate as “voluntary recruits,” in violation of the minimum age established for military service. Consequently, the State has been requested to provide more information and statistics on this matter.480




  1. The Commission has also been informed about the restrictions on travel imposed on Cuban nationals, both on entering and exiting the country, as well as on domestic travel, which affects children’s rights to visit or be reunited with their families, as was reported in the IACHR’s 2013 Annual Report and the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 2011 report.481 Although domestic regulations on the matter were reformed in 2013 to allow more people to travel, the Government still has the power to restrict the right to travel without clearly defined grounds, and to limit travel to the country’s capital.482



  1. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans, and Intersex (LGBTI)





  1. In 2013 and 2014, the Commission received information on progress made on and challenges to the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Cuba. In the past twelve months, there were positive legal and public policy developments with respect to discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. However, the Commission continues to receive information about police abuse and acts of violence against LGBT persons, including murders, particularly of gay men. LGBT activists not affiliated with the government’s political positions maintain that “the homosexual community in Cuba is a community that is marginalized, that is stigmatized and persecuted, that lacks public spaces… Homophobia exists at the institutional level.483




  1. The IACHR received information that the National Center for Sexual Education [Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual] (CENESEX), which is under the authority of the Ministry of Public Health, is making efforts to promote and protect the rights of LGBT individuals. According to information received, CENESEX offers legal advice and representation services, seeking to strengthen the human rights of the LGBT community in Cuba in the face of the discrimination and violent actions that affect the lives of gay and trans individuals.484




  1. Violence




  1. In 2013 and 2014 the IACHR continued to receive information on acts of violence against LGBT persons in Cuba, including attacks against them due to their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In 2013, the IACHR was informed of the murders of Ivonne, a transgender woman, presumably at the hands of her husband, and of Nelson Linares, a gay man who reportedly died while in State custody.485




  1. As part of its work to monitor situations of violence against LBGTI persons, the IACHR has compiled a Register of Violence against LGBT persons, which documents murders and other serious acts of violence against these individuals in the region during a fifteen-month period (between January 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014). In this period, the IACHR was informed of at least two murders of gay men who were well-known Cuban artists, one in September 2013486 and one in January 2014.487 Both men were found at their homes with their throats slit. In March of 2014, CENESEX stated that a “large number of murder victims in Cuba in the past two years were ‘homosexuals.’”488




  1. Situation of defenders of human rights of LGBT persons




  1. The Commission also received information about the case of the activist David Bustamante. Mr. Bustamante was arrested on May 26, 2014 after a public protest in which he made social demands.489 As of August 2014, he was still being held under arrest. The government indicates that he was arrested for disorderly conduct, but activists allege that the demonstration was peaceful and that Mr. Bustamante was tortured and discriminated against due to his sexual orientation. The IACHR also received information that Mr. Bustamante’s mother had been arrested for several hours on October 1, 2014 by State Security and National Police officers while participating in a public protest.490




  1. In addition, the Commission received information on the situation of the defenders of the human rights of LBGT persons unaffiliated with the government’s political stances. These defenders maintain that their organizations are not recognized by the State or by CENESEX, which hinders their work in defense of the rights of the country’s LGBT population.491




  1. Alleged instances of police abuse




  1. The Commission has also received information on police abuse against LGBT persons in Cuba. According to the information, LGBT persons from around the country are often forced to migrate towards the capital because of the difficult economic situation and discrimination by local authorities in the country’s interior. It is reported that once they arrive in Havana, they become victims of police persecution. When they are arrested, police officers issue them warning letters and deport them back towards the provinces from where they came.492




  1. Organizations report that trans persons are being forced to leave their homes due to their gender identity and expression. Furthermore, trans women who are sex workers are reportedly being prohibited from being on the street and threatened with arrest by the police if they return there. The IACHR has received information on trans women who were reportedly discriminated against because their identity documents did not coincide with their gender identity and who were sexually abused by officers. According to the information received, Cuban trans Afro-descendants are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and violence.493




  1. Likewise, the Commission has received information on alleged government and police officer violations of the right to free association and freedom of movement of LGBT persons. It is reported that government authorities do not provide authorization for events that are to be held by organizations that are unaffiliated with the government’s political positions and that defend the rights of LGBT persons.494 In addition, the police are reportedly trying to prevent LGBT persons from congregating in public spaces and at their meeting points.495




  1. Regulations and legislation




  1. In 2008, the Ministry of Public Health passed a regulation that made possible for trans persons to undergo sex reassignment surgery for free, completely covered by the State.496 However, the IACHR has received information to the effect that trans persons who wish to access this benefit must first sign a document in which they indicate their affiliation with and commitment to the ideology of the government, and if they do not sign it, they cannot receive this benefit.497




  1. In 2013, civil society organizations protested against the fact that Cuba did not have any laws whatsoever for the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons.498 The director of CENESEX reports that despite the lack of legislation on the subject, in Cuba there is a political will that has facilitated the implementation of a national sexual education program that is helping to change the patriarchal and homophobic culture.499




  1. On May 20, 2014, the IACHR recognized the work being done in Cuba to modify the legislation in order to protect LGBT persons.500 The new Labor Code was published as law on June 17, 2014501 and represents progress for gays, lesbians, and bisexual persons as it expressly enshrines non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.502 However, it does not expressly mention non-discrimination based on gender identity,503 and thus effectively excludes trans persons.




  1. Regional and international positioning




  1. The Sixth Regional Conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGALAC) took place in Cuba in May, 2014. CENESEX was the host organization. The Conference brought together hundreds of delegates, including regional figures well-known for their activism in defending the rights of LGBT persons.504




  1. Nevertheless, five Cuban LGBT organizations unaffiliated with CENESEX published a joint statement in which they rejected the Conference and the fact that only the official representation of the Cuban government and some NGOs that answer to State interests would participate, reporting that “the methods used by the Cuban authorities have only been changed in order to make them invisible to international oversight” and stating that “the Cuban LGBT community continues to be persecuted, marginalized, and stigmatized.”505




  1. Finally, it is worth highlighting that at the international level, Cuba voted in favor of approving the resolution on discrimination and violence against LGBT persons, entitled “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,” during the United Nations Human Rights Council session held in September 2014.506 The UN resolution expresses “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.” 507



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