Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba to hold symbolic 'mass gay wedding'

A transvestite holds a gay rights banner and a Cuban national flag at a march against homophobia in Havana on 11 May 2013
Image caption The mass wedding will coincide with Cuba's annual gay pride event

Gay rights activists in Cuba will hold a mass wedding this weekend, in a country where gay marriage is still not legal.

The activists will be led by the daughter of President Raul Castro, Mariela, who is a leading gay and transgender rights campaigner.

The symbolic wedding will be part of Cuba's annual gay pride parade.

Ms Castro said she hoped the event could lead to further change in future.

In recent years, Cuba has taken steps towards integrating people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

In 2010, two years after he stood down as president, Fidel Castro said he had been wrong to discriminate against gay people, who were sent to labour camps soon after the 1959 revolution.

In 2012, Adela Hernandez, who is biologically male but has lived as a woman since childhood, became the first LGBT person in Cuba to win a seat in office, after winning in municipal elections in central Cuba.

And in 2008, Cuba approved free sex-change operations to those who qualified.

Image caption Mariela Castro, President Castro's daughter, says her father supports gay marriage
Image caption A law was passed in 2013 banning discrimination against sexuality - but not gender identity

Ms Castro, the head of the National Sex Education Centre and a member of Cuba's National Assembly, says her father supports same-sex marriage, but no legislation has yet been approved.

"We can't do a wedding, but we wanted to have a very modest celebration of love with some religious leaders," said Ms Castro,

"In the future we'll see what more we can do."

In December 2013, a new labour law was approved, outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the law did not ban discrimination based on gender identity, and Ms Castro voted against it.

"There is a fear that this will tear Cuban society apart," Ms Castro said. "It will create cultural and ideological enrichment."

In its 2014 annual report, Freedom House, a US-based think-tank, criticised delays in implementing same-sex marriage in Cuba, and said the authorities "do not recognize the work of independent, grassroots LGBT rights groups".

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