Cuba is debating yes and no on a new and controversial family code

Cuba’s current family code has been in force since 1975. Authorities are advancing a crusade to get a new law approved in September amid controversy over some of the changes it introduces, including same-sex marriage.

Intending to update the Family Code, which dates back to 1975, the Cuban government led by Miguel Díaz-Canel is advancing on a crusade to have the new law approved in a referendum scheduled for September 25.

The new family code, according to the official Cuba.CU website, “attempts to revolutionize the concept of family. This code aims to be a portrait of Cuban society and all the communities it encompasses, protecting the principles of equality and not discrimination on an island” .

Consulted by Reuters, Cuban researcher and professor Eberto García said of the new norm: “The code is an exercise, first of law. Logically, this generates contradictions in an extremely complex context like the one we live in today in Cuba, economic, political and social complexities. Logically, a project like the code, which registers and gives as broad an idea as possible of who we really are, of the patterns of life we ​​follow as a family and as individuals, should logically generate tension”.

The text of the new norm has sparked a debate since last year on social networks, expressed in hashtags such as #YoDigoSi, #TodosLosDerechosParaTodasLasPersonas, #CubaInclusiva and #CódigoDeLasFamilias.

What new points does the new Family Code contain?

*Articles 56 and 57 of Title IV of the new Family Code stipulate that a person may have more than two consanguineous relationships due to initial causes or due to subsequent causes. In both cases, this relationship is legally established, regardless of the biological relationship or genetic makeup of the people involved.

*The possibility is provided for the children to bear the surnames of their mother and father in the order in which they bear it.

*Article 57 clarifies that multiple parentage is legally recognized and in the case of those related to social affectivity, all relevant factors and circumstances will be taken into account and recognition of kinship may or may not be ordered in favor of those who have it requested without this leads to displacement of already established connections. In addition, they can claim multiple parentage, in addition to the daughter or son, the prosecution and those specified in the registration.

*Expansion of permissions for grandparents to guarantee their communication with their grandchildren in case of hostility of a father or mother or to transfer “parental responsibility” of minors to the elderly.

This is key in a country where up to four generations live together under one roof due to a housing deficit built up over decades. This becomes important also against the background of increasing emigration, especially of young people who leave their minor children under the protection of their grandparents.

* Its Article 50 recognizes four types of kinship and constitutive property rights that may be due to: natural procreation, the legal act of adoption, the use of any technique of assisted reproduction, and the ties that are built by judicially recognized social affectivity.

*Article 51 clarifies that each of these relationships gives rise to the same legal consequences and determines parental responsibility, surnames, the legal obligation to provide food, inheritance rights and other consequences established by law.

*Providing sanctions for domestic violence in divorce litigation. The text, which will be voted on, legally incorporates stepmothers and stepfathers and regulates contact regimes with grandparents.

*Considers optional property regimes for married couples.

*The possibility is provided for the children to bear the surnames of their mother and father in the order in which they bear it.

* Extends protection so that people with disabilities are not left vulnerable.

What are the changes regarding the adoption of minors?

The resource for the adoption of minors is regulated in Cuba by the Family Code of 1975. The new law establishes changes in the field of adoption in terms of who can request adoption.

For now, adoption is only a resource for one person or two in the case of marriage.

The new proposal, which will be put to a referendum, provides that a boy or girl can be adopted by one or two people who are already married or have an affective, instrumental and registered de facto relationship.

Likewise, since same-sex marriage is possible, the right to adopt is extended to them. Minors whose parents are deprived of parental responsibility can be adopted.

The possibility of international adoption is allowed, although for reasons of promoting the cultural identity of the nation, adoption by Cuban citizens residing in Cuba is preferred over foreigners.

Why exclude parental authority and introduce parental responsibility?

The new law intends to understand motherhood and fatherhood as a matter of responsibility, not of possession. Thus, raising their children to develop in society to make their own decisions is defined as a role. In this sense, the term parental responsibility is included to replace the old concept of parental authority.

According to the government, the removal of the concept of parental authority “seeks to understand children and adolescents from a new dimension, more respectful of their rights and opportunities”. Instead, authorities say, they chose the term parental responsibility “with the intention of enhancing the role of fathers and mothers in the well-being of their children.”

What is expected from the referendum?

Cubans over 16 must fill out a ballot in which they can only cross the words “yes” and “no” to answer the question: “Do you agree with the Family Code?”

To be passed, it must have a “yes” by a simple majority of actual votes, National Electoral Council President Alina Baiseiro said Thursday.

Why is the proposal controversial?

The text was discussed in neighborhoods and job centers between February and April as part of the process for its approval.

According to the authorities, about 79,000 such meetings were held and about 6.5 million citizens participated in them. The population of Cuba is approximately 11.3 million inhabitants.

The unicameral parliament combined the criteria to announce the final text, which will be voted on in September.

Some resist the changes, particularly religious groups and churches that reject same-sex marriage, gay adoption or surrogacy.

It also caused controversy among some of the island’s LGBT community, who criticized the fact that something they consider part of human rights was being put to a vote.

The Family Code of 1975 states that “marriage is a voluntarily entered into union between a man and a woman of legal capacity for the purpose of living together.”

What does the Catholic Church say?

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Cuba published in February of this year a declaration opposing some aspects raised in one of the different versions of the project, including same-sex marriage.

“We believe that our people, on the matter that concerns us, were very clear in the discussion before the approval of the current constitution of 2019. The finding that the majority of Cubans wanted the definition of marriage to be preserved as the union of a man and a woman is indisputable , as it is in the current Family Code of 1975,” the text states.

This alludes to the reaction of Cuban religious organizations that condemned Article 68 in 2019, which read that: “Marriage is a voluntarily arranged union between two people with the legal capacity to live together.” As a result, the article was excluded from Magna Carta.

The Standing Committee of the Conference assured in February that the proposal for the new family code “is riddled with what is known as ‘gender ideology'” and that the forcible implantation of such an ideology would lead to a distortion of reality.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its February statement, directly rejected rights related to Cuba’s LGBTIQ+ community.

“This perspective of gender ideology is present in the articles of [anteproyecto] who are redefining marriage into those who speak of ‘sustained pregnancy’, ‘assisted parentage’ and adoption. The very introduction of the new concept of “parental responsibility” and “progressive autonomy of the minor” in an ideological context creates suspicions and ambiguities that weaken the other concept, which is “patria potestas”, the bishops wrote.

Who will be able to participate in the referendum abroad?

The government has announced that the referendum is scheduled for September 18 outside the island and that only diplomats and associates such as doctors, technicians and specialists on official contract can participate.

Cubans living abroad, who can only participate if they travel to the country, are excluded from this opportunity.

When will the results be known?

According to authorities, voter lists will be available between August 15 and 30, and the results may be announced unofficially the day after the vote, but will be officially delivered to parliament on September 30.

(VOA article)

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