Mariela Castro visited Philadelphia in order to speak to the Equality Forum which was being held at the University of Arts. The conference was held this past Saturday, and there Castro discussed ehr efforts to promote LGBT rights in Cuba. She also received an award for her efforts.
She also defended her government which has fased accusations of repressing political dissent as well as a number of other civil rights violations. Castro defended her government stating that “There is not any government or any country who has the right to impose or make decisions to the other ones regarding the human-rights area.” She did say that she was “very proud” of the work she has done to promote LGBT equality.
She plans to push same-sex marriage when she returns to Cuba.
Castro is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education or CENESEX, and is a professional sexologist. That is she is an interdisciplinary scholar of human sexuality. Malcolm Lazin, the Equality Forum’s executive director praised the work of Castro to reduce opposition for LGBT Cubans where homosexuality was a criminal offense as recently as the 1970′s. Then again homosexual acts were illegal throughout much of the United States as recently as 2003.
Castro’s visit has not been without its detractors. Initially, the State Department initially denied her clearance to travel from the United Nations to attend the conference. The decision was reversed. Still, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), was not happy and in a statement said “For a person like Mariela Castro to attend a conference on civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, and to receive an award, is shameful, pathetic and a ruse. The words equality and human rights don’t exist in the vocabulary of the Castro tyranny.”
Retired Representative Barney Frank also spoke at the conference and applauded Castro for her work in trying to make life easier for the LGBT Cubans. Still, he stated he would “differ with her very sharply” if she were to embrace the political repression of her father and uncle. He stated that they were “among the great betrayers of liberalism and human rights.”
Frank went on to say “I’m glad that they’re lessening the repression of gay and lesbian people, but no, I certainly don’t think that people should say, ‘OK, well, that’s all you have to do.’”