President Raúl Castro’s daughter has led Cuba’s largest Pride event ever – as LGBT activists call for recognition in the country.
Mariela Castro is a prominent supporter of LGBT rights, and has repeatedly pressed her father to introduce gay rights reforms in the country.
Ms Castro – who is the head of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education as well as an MP – yesterday led a march through the streets of Havana to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Thousands of people took part in the march through the city despite the scorching sun, paving their way through the Cuban capital
A number of figures from the US took part in the march amid warming relations between the two countries – with Evan Wolfson of US group Freedom to Marry and transgender actress Candis Cayne joining her in the parade.
Ms Castro said that same-sex couples should be granted the right to form a union “just as heterosexual couples have” in order to protect their rights.Homosexuality has been legal in Cuba since 1979, but there was little progress on the issue under former President Fidel Castro, with little anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and no partnership rights for same-sex couples.
However, the country has seen a growing pro-LGBT movement as Cuba begins to look outwards towards the rest of the world
Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry told the Miami Herald: “Thanks to President Obama, the restoration of relations between the US and Cuba allows people to travel and exchange ideas, and I am thrilled to now be one of them.
“I’m no expert and am here to learn, listen, and share ideas, including a better understanding of Cuba’s pathway to the freedom to marry.
“Nearly 70% of the people of Latin America now live in a freedom to marry country. The Cuban people deserve no less.”
He added he plans to meet with “a range of Cuban leaders and advocates, fellow conference attendees, LGBT activists and supporters, and our U.S. Ambassador and the Embassy team” during his trip.
Ms Castro previously infuriated social conservatives in the country by holding a ceremonial same-sex union.