About 8 million Cubans will be able to participate this Sunday (25) in a referendum to update the Family Code, which dates from 1975. The vote will define, by a simple majority, whether same-sex marriage will be legalized, in addition to establishing measures to protect women in cases of domestic gender violence and for the release of surrogacy, among other points.
This is an atypical procedure, as it is only the third time that the people of Cuba have been called to a referendum in 46 years. Previously, two similar processes for modifying the Magna Carta were applied. The first was in 1976 and the other, more recent, was in February 2019 and many consider it the natural antecedent of the current process.
“Forty-seven years after the promulgation of the current Family Code, it is essential to introduce the amendments”, states the introduction of the new Family Code, which was published in the “Gaceta Oficial” last month after a process of deliberations.
In fact, what will be voted on on Sunday is version number 25 of the text, approved by the National Assembly of Popular Power (the island’s legislative power) after a process of deliberations that took place between February and April 2022, according to “Granma” , the official Cuban newspaper.
How will the vote be?
Citizens must go to polling centers between 6 am and 7 pm. For the entire week, only Cubans living abroad who are “on diplomatic and work missions” were entitled to vote in advance, according to documents published by the Council of State.
In all cases, Cubans will answer the question: “Do you agree with the Family Code?”
See the most significant points of the new code
If the “yes” wins, Cuba will become the ninth Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, after Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico.
In the previous code, the text refers to marriage as “the voluntary and agreed union between a man and a woman”. The new text names it as “the voluntary and agreed union between two persons with legal capacity for marriage, in order to unite lives based on mutual affection, love and respect”.
Along with this provision, the new family code will recognize a diverse range of affiliations that transcend consanguinity.
End of child marriage
The 1975 code allows the exceptional possibility of formalizing a child marriage with the consent of the parents, “provided that the woman is at least 14 years old and the man is at least 16 years old”, as indicated in the original text. The new bill states that “people’s ability to formalize marriage is reached at eighteen (18) years of age.”
Child marriage deprives girls of fully experiencing childhood and puts their lives and health at risk, according to Unicef. In addition, young women who marry before age 18 are at greater risk of domestic violence and are less likely to continue in school.
Provisions against gender-based violence
The new code recognizes episodes of discrimination and violence in the family and states that they “constitute expressions of family violence, verbal, physical, psychological, moral and sexual, economic or patrimonial abuse, negligence, inattention and abandonment, whether by action or omission, direct or indirect”.
In addition, it states that they are “urgent issues” and that they must therefore be dealt with with priority. “Any person who considers himself a victim has the right to denounce and request immediate protection from the corresponding authorities”, says one of the articles that will be voted on this Sunday.
Named in the new text as “solidarity pregnancy” and popularly known as surrogacy, surrogacy could put Cuba on the shortlist of countries that recognize it. The practice is widely questioned due to its inherent ethical conflicts.
The new code, however, presents a number of conditions for surrogacy to apply, including that it must take place for altruistic reasons and human solidarity, and cannot be mediated by any “compensation, gift or other benefit”.
Adhesions and rejections to the project
The text and its approval were the subject of an intense campaign by the Cuban authorities, who flooded social networks with the hashtags #CodigoSi and #YoVotoSi.
“The Family Code is the hope of thousands of people scarred by painful stories of exclusion and silence. Human beings who have suffered and suffer from the voids of our laws. On the 25th of September, I will vote Yes. For them and for Cuba,” tweeted President Miguel Diaz-Canel days before the referendum.
“I vote Yes for a code that guarantees the well-being and happiness of all individuals and families. I vote yes for a rule that recognizes children and adolescents as the rights issue #YoVotoSi #CodigoSi”, wrote congresswoman Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of the late Raúl Castro, sexologist and director of the National Center for Sexual Education (Cenesex).
However, the voices against the referendum were heard and could be expressed this Sunday by the “no” or with the abstention. On September 12, the Catholic Church in Cuba issued a letter signed by a group of bishops in which it exposed “with disillusionment”, the incorporation in the code of a series of proposals that they claim were “notoriously questioned by society” and “ controversial in most of the text. Furthermore, the letter rejects elements derived from what it defines as “gender ideology”.
In the absence of credible polls, lack of coverage by opposition media and scant presence of international organizations, the results of Sunday’s vote remain uncertain. But experts predict that the rejection of the new text could be used by the state as an argument in favor of the functioning of Cuban democratic institutions.
Source: CNN Brasil