For decades, the Cuban regime insisted on "doing more with less" a slogan that only led to failure. But now the Government has gone to the other extreme of inefficiency. In terms of eradicating all forms of violence and discrimination against women, it has "succeeded" in doing less with more, as it continues to adopt programs and strategies that do not make up for the absence of a comprehensive law against gender-based violence, and to offer no solutions to the poverty and violence —also institutional— suffered by women in Cuba.
The president of the Supreme People's Court (TSP), Rubén Remigio Ferro, recently presented a strategy to incorporate the gender perspective and the fight against violence into the government's working group on the subject, according to the institution's Twitter account.
The announcement is surprising because, among other reasons, neither the judges nor the other workers in Cuba's legal system have training in this area, just as they have none in human rights, as these subjects do not form part of law school curricula in the country.
In November of 2020, speaking at a Round Table dedicated to the National Advancement Program for Women, First Deputy Minister of Justice Rosabel Gamón recognized that it was necessary to train Cuban students and legal professionals on gender issues.
In addition to the abovementioned strategy, since 2007 Cuba's TSP Cuba has had Directive 187 and, five years later, approved Directive 216, with which it introduced the family procedure and the creation of special courts to reform the Family Code. In practice, these instructions have not been incorporated into all the country's courts since then, because they are not mandatory, so their existence has been of little use in dealing with gender-based violence.
It should also be noted that the TSP was the body responsible for drafting the Penal Code approved in May by the National Assembly of Popular Power. The law, despite containing articles that, with respect to the Cuban criminal law still in force, show progress in terms of gender, does not officially classify femicide as a specific class of crime.
Even deputy Mariela Castro requested the classification of the aforementioned crime, despite the fact that, in 2015, in an interview with the newspaper Tiempo Argentino, she stated: "we do not have, for example, femicides. Because Cuba is not a violent country, and that is an effect of the Revolution," she added.
Since then, she seems to have awakened to reality, as from January 1, 2020 to date more than 70 women have died of gender-based violence in Cuba, according to unofficial statistics, since the Cuban government does not disclose data on this scourge.
Thus, though Cuba's TSP is, supposedly, concerned about gender-based violence, as evidenced by its recently approved strategy to incorporate a gender perspective, it is not concerned enough to classify femicide as a crime in the Criminal Code it drafted.
In October of 2020 the Council of Ministers approved the aforementioned National Program for the Advancement of Women. A month later Teresa Amarelle Baue, national secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), stated that this does not constitute a new program, but rather an updating of the National Follow-up Action Plan for Beijing, approved in 1997.
Therefore, the Cuban Government can now show international agencies that it has a national program, updating a plan dating from 25 years ago, and both directives and a strategy from the TSP, in order to convince them that it is doing what it can, when it could do more, and more efficiently, with the kind of comprehensive law against gender-based violence that Cuban activists and women's platforms have called for.
Regarding the results of the national program, on May 13 Prensa Latina published, one year after its implementation, that it is known about, and followed, but it has not yet had a real impact on the female sphere, and is generally a concern of executives, both male and female. This was also acknowledged in a report on the verifications of the program's implementation.
According to the document, "although there is still a long way to go, the deputies concluded that efforts are on the rise to increase job offers for unemployed women, or other women in vulnerable situations, to free them from dependence on social security and empower them to become independent."
This includes mothers with three or more children, for whom the Cuban Government prioritizes a housing program in coordination with the territories.
Last April, however, the Cuban authorities had to admit that in 2021 less than 50% of the housing construction plan’s targets were met, though in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic the construction of hotels continued.
The reality continues to be disheartening for women who decide to have children in Cuba. At the beginning of June, shortly after Prensa Latina published information on "the verifications of the program's implementation," the feminist platform YoSíTeCreo (IBelieveYou) complained that a pregnant girl, under the age of 17 and abandoned by her family in Havana, had been put up by the local government, along with others, in state accommodations not compliant with health and safety regulations.
The minor, Yasleidy Barrientos García, had ended up there, "after numerous efforts and protests (...) between March and May of this year."
When she was 22 weeks pregnant, with a low-weight fetus, the authorities decided to give the adolescent a stipend and to send her to a "half-way house" located on the Calle 311, between 178 and 182, Reparto Lutgardita, Boyeros municipality, in Havana.
The teen was assured that her stay there would be "temporary," but some girls had been there for more than a year.
These young women may feel fortunate, however, compared to other Cuban homeless mothers, who opt to squat in abandoned State premises to at least put a roof over their heads and those of their children. They are often violently evicted from these sites by the police, on the orders of government officials, without the FMC doing anything against this form of institutional violence, and without the national advancement program making any difference to date.
If, as the president of the FMC has stated, the advancement program is the updated version of a national plan, the logical step would not be to evaluate what has been achieved in a year, but rather in the 25 years since the approval of said plan.
Since then, what has been achieved by the Government and the FMC, which is the national mechanism for the "advancement of women" and the "theoretical and methodological reference point for gender issues?" What good has the creation of the national advancement program been? Its only contribution so far seems to have been, as the activist Aimara Peña told DIARIO DE CUBA in 2021, the acknowledgement that in Cuba "women have been left behind and suffer violence," a fact the Cuban regime sought to deny for a long time.