By Iroel Sanchez
September 23, 2022
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
This Sunday, Cubans will vote in a referendum for a new Families Code that will mean a substantive development in rights and guarantees for all citizens, but especially for sexual minorities, the elderly, women and girls. In Cuba, for more than five decades, there has been paid maternity, the right of women to decide on their pregnancy with universal and free medical care, and to receive equal pay for equal work as men. All of this, part of guaranteeing legislation that now advances and is consolidated with the new Code, is nothing more than an aspiration for U.S. women.
However, the U.S. government, which in the name of Human Rights, unleashes wars, sanctions countries and applies against Cuba the longest and most complete system of economic punishment ever known, far from diminishing them, these days increases them by forcing any traveler to the Island who wants to visit U.S. territory to require a visa, thus damaging tourism, one of the main lines of the Cuban economy.
And worse: In its anti-Cuban propaganda war, Washington is now putting all the machinery of terrorism 2.0 in digital networks, which it finances for regime change on the island, to promote a vote against a Code that will allow, among many things, equal marriage and solidarity motherhood [surrogacy without exchange of money]. Experts say that in terms of sexual and family rights it is one of the most advanced legislations in the world and deals a hard blow to patriarchy.
Nevertheless, the U.S. foreign policy discourse sets itself up as a defender of women’s rights. It does so after creating, with its mujahideen friends, the backward Taliban to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and which set back by thousands of years the freedoms that Afghan women won with a socialist-oriented government.
Or allying with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the country Biden has just visited as an arms dealer, where women are deprived of any social and political life and condemned to medieval punishments if they deviate in the slightest from the strict rules established by a monarchy without parliament or elections of any kind. None of that arouses scruples in Washington, nor do the hundreds of women and girls “collateral damage” from its drone, helicopter and bomber fire in the Middle East and beyond.
That politicized, biased and opportunistic view of Human Rights, and in particular women’s rights, is President Joe Biden’s when he said this week at the UN to “stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran” over protests where the U.S. hand is evident.
Since the times when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, back in 2009, admitted to Fared Zakariah on CNN that Washington was using Twitter to foment rebellions against the government in Tehran, much has evolved in technology but not in the cynicism installed in the White House.
Since then, there are enough elements, including U.S. diplomats arrested in the middle of previous protests, to know that although there may be real elements of nonconformity behind a street demonstration, as anywhere in the world, the long hand of the U.S. special services and the powerful media that are akin to them, are decisive in what the world perceives as real.
This time the motive is the death of young Masha Amini, who died in a police station in Tehran, after being arrested by the body known as the Morality Police, for not wearing the Islamic veil properly. The Iranian authorities have claimed that she died of a heart attack, and a security camera video released by them shows Amini in a kind of conference where only women are seen without any trace of violence, from which she gets up, walks, goes to talk to another woman and falls down on her own feet, receives medical attention and is taken away in an ambulance. Nothing to do with the victims of American drones, those tortured in clandestine prisons or Guantanamo and Abuh Ghraib, whose images outrage our retinas.
Much less the shooting of the crowds of women and children who flooded the Kabul airport trying to flee with the American troops who, in their stampede from Afghanistan, left Afghan women in the hands of the Taliban extremists. Closer to home, the names of anti-capitalist social activists Bertha Cáceres (Honduras) or Marielle Franco (Brazil), gunned down, have never been uttered by a U.S. leader. However, the mainstream media do not stop talking about the former and keep quiet about the latter.
For Afghan women, victims of a regime brought about by Washington’s failed adventures in the Middle East, there are no kind words among the governments of the West, nor for the Yemeni women who are dying themselves and their children from starvation or bullets in a war instigated by Riyadh and supported by Washington, nor for the Cuban women who day by day face the shortages imposed by the genocidal blockade that Biden is tightening against Cuba and who, starting this Sunday, despite this, will go out to vote for more and broader rights that U.S. women lack.
Double standards, hypocrisy, and geopolitical interests, zero legitimate concern for Human Rights, is the only thing shown by the American discourse on women, whether in America, Asia or the North Pole. “Brave”, for cynics, are those who with the truth right under their noses seem to ignore it.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Those two dashes, indicating a positive test, confirmed that morning her doubts, but also the fear that had been keeping her on edge for days. Camila was in her second year of psychology, and carrying a pregnancy to term was not part of the “plan”; for her, it was simply not the right time, nor did she feel ready to take on the responsibility of being a mother.
She admits that the decision was always clear to her, even when her parents asked her to think it over, that they would help her with the child’s upbringing. “But I knew what I wanted, and I was in time to have a menstrual regulation; today I have no regrets.”
Talking about abortion in Cuba is not a taboo subject; however, it sometimes raises conflicting opinions in society. What is clear is that sexual and reproductive health is a right in our country and includes, among other elements, women’s access to voluntary interruption of pregnancy, which is supported by a medical-legal, free and safe procedure.
The Island was, in fact, the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to decriminalize abortion, and since 1965 the legal basis was created so that it could be performed within the framework of the national health system.
This basis is based on three fundamental principles: the woman is the one who decides about her body and whether she will carry her pregnancy to term; the voluntary termination of pregnancy will be performed in controlled health environments and by specialized personnel, and it will be performed completely free of charge, recently explained Dr. José Angel Portal Miranda, Minister of Public Health (Minsap).
For more than 50 years, Cuban women have had access to this right and, legally and in terms of implementation, abortion is guaranteed for any woman over 18 years of age or with the authorization of the legal guardian for adolescents.
The current practice – Portal Miranda pointed out – is that up to 12 weeks of gestational age, abortion is allowed by voluntary decision of the woman, with no restrictions as to the reason, and up to 26 weeks, for fetal malformations incompatible with life, in authorized health care institutions.
It also established the use of informed consent for the performance of all cases of legal interruption by the woman or her representative, in case she is a minor or is not in physical or mental condition, because she is in serious danger to her life, it said.
WHAT DO CUBAN LAWS SAY ABOUT REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS?
The Constitution of the Republic leaves little doubt on the subject. Article 43 states that the State promotes the integral development of women and their full social participation. It also ensures the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights, protects them from gender violence in any of its manifestations and spaces, and creates institutional and legal mechanisms for this purpose.
This postulate reinforces the legal nature of abortion in Cuba and its attention as a health issue in Minsap institutions, even when the procedure is not registered, as such, in a law.
However, the Penal Code establishes that abortion becomes a crime when it is performed for profit, without the woman’s consent or in conditions that may threaten her life and health.
In this regard, the head of Public Health has stated that reproductive rights include equality, non-discrimination, health, reproductive autonomy, information and integrity; issues that should be included in the next Health Law, which should be approved by the end of this year.
We hope that the new legislation will further protect the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy in the face of the advance of conservatism and fundamentalism that jeopardize, in the world and in the region, a fundamental conquest for women.
This is undoubtedly a need that must be reinforced by the legal framework, but also by more effective protocols and procedures that prevent the so-called “naturalization of the procedure” from taking patients away from the center of attention, since the interest is, and will always be, to safeguard the integral health of women, both physical and psychological.
DEFENDING BODILY AUTONOMY, LIFE, AND WOMEN’S HEALTH
About 56 million abortions are performed every year in the world, of which approximately 45% are performed in an unsafe manner, the Minister of Public Health detailed at that press conference.
Portal Miranda clarified that the maternal mortality related to this unsafe practice is also generally high, where abortion is severely restricted.
She explained that our country defends a public policy of family planning that allows a conscious decision on the number of children one wants to have and at what time. It advocates implementing a process of accompanying women in their right to decide about their bodies and abortion is left as a last resort in the face of an unwanted pregnancy. “In this way a legal, safe, free and feminist abortion can be achieved,” she stressed.
The institutions that perform voluntary interruption of pregnancy are defined in the national health system. They are maternity hospitals; maternal-children’s hospitals; general hospitals with gynecology-obstetrics services and, in addition, certain polyclinics are accredited to perform medical abortion, which is used in patients with a menstrual delay of up to 45 days, counting from the first day of the last period, she pointed out.
She added that Cuba has 167 menstrual extraction services; and the accuracy of the statistics for abortion as an event of any kind, including spontaneous abortions, is recognized by international organizations.
She stated that voluntary interruption of pregnancy has not been a main determinant in the current fertility decline, while there is a discreet trend towards a decrease in abortion and menstrual regulation events. For example, in 1985 the rate was 55.0; in 1990, 45.6; in 2015, 30; and in 2020, 22.1 per 1,000 women aged 12 to 45 years.
In her opinion, this decrease is based on educational programs, both general and sexual education, and on the availability of varied, efficient and effective contraceptive methods and means, both of which can be improved. “The limited availability of contraceptives in this pandemic period is no secret”.
The volume of voluntary abortions is considered to be high because the main purpose of Family Planning policies, to reduce this practice to the indispensable minimum, has not been achieved, she pointed out. For this goal, she said, there is a national strategy to decrease the rates of surgical abortions, including medical abortions.
“This objective will become a reality when non-invasive techniques for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy are extended, mainly medical abortion with Misoprostol, a protocol that proposes to perform 80% of all voluntary abortions with this method, without abandoning the development of all abortion services, mainly aimed at increasing their safety, resolution and efficacy”.
From the Health system, said the Minister, we insist on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and on using this right only in the face of the failure of contraceptive methods. “It is not a contraceptive method in itself or a family planning method, since its indiscriminate use can put women’s sexual and reproductive health at risk,” she said.
She insisted on the need to continue working towards providing information on these services, even in our country, where it is a conquered right, and for people to know how to access them and the support of the health system for women’s bodily autonomy, life and health.
Posted: Sunday 10 July 2022 | 12:11:13 am.
Juana Carrasco Martin | email@example.com
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The United Nations has turned on the red light bulb for the United States after the Supreme Court reversed the right to abortion, thus taking away from the women of the northern nation a constitutional right that had been recognized for 49 years.
The decision by six of the nine justices of the highest court to uphold the ban on abortion in the southern state of Mississippi and five to four to overturn Roe v. Wade, removes American women and girls from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was adopted in December 1979 by Resolution 34/180 of the United Nations General Assembly.
That UN standard protects females broadly and even recognizes their right to reproductive health, and, in opposing the effects of discrimination, includes violence, poverty and lack of legal protection, along with denial of inheritance, property rights and access to credit, among others.
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Missouri, Kentucky, Idaho, the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming and Oklahoma are among nearly half of the states that have indicated or explicitly stated they will ban the pregnancy termination procedure. The UN has expressed solidarity with the women and urged the U.S. to accede to the Convention, which it originally signed but did not ratify, as 189 of the 193 UN member states have done. The other three countries that have also failed to ratify the Convention are Iran, Somalia and Sudan.
The international body makes an essential argument: that legal access to abortion procedures helps reduce maternal mortality and ensures women’s right to bodily autonomy. It turns out that the United States exhibits a maternal mortality rate that is incongruent with the technical-scientific development and wealth of that country. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2020, 861 women died from pregnancy-related complications, 14 percent more than in 2019, when 754 died, the highest maternal mortality rate of any high-income nation in the world.
Last February, the CDC, in a new report, showed a slight but steady increase in the number of women dying annually due to pregnancy or childbirth in the United States, and we highlight another piece of information given by the official record of statistics: the maternal mortality rate among black women is still three times higher than that of white women.
This brings another painful point in the figures of inequalities in a country that is going backwards daily in a journey to the seed of the most extreme puritanism and conservatism, and in this case not only is this backward march undeniable, but it is inhumane that from now on abortion is not authorized as a legal procedure in cases of rape, incest, threats to the life or health of the pregnant woman or girl or in the face of serious fetal deterioration.
We mentioned the situation of Black women, but it is aggravated in all cases of low-income or poor women. The Hill, in its analysis of the situation, cited a 2014 report, by which the Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher found that 75 percent of abortion patients were considered low-income or poor, and commented that the costs of having an abortion are now rising when the expense of the medical procedure will be joined by travel to another state and even care for the pregnant woman’s other potential children. Three out of four women who have abortions are considered poor or low-income, The Hill stressed.
“Among the 75 percent of abortion patients who are poor or low-income, 49 percent live below the federal poverty level and 26 percent live between 100 percent and 199 percent of the poverty level, according to 2014 research,” said the article in that Washington political publication.
This situation will worsen if we take into account the affectations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, when 20 million jobs were lost, as data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the consulting firm McKinsey & Company highlight that hundreds of women are being left out of the economic recovery process in the United States and are staying at home taking care of their families, among other causes because of the difficulty of finding reliable and affordable child care, and those figures in an AP report show that September 2021 counted about 2.5 million fewer women in the workforce compared to the same period in 2019.
Coupled with this is another element of inequality affecting women: the wage gap, which increases if you are Black or Latina. Before the pandemic, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, that gap averaged about 19.5 percent, with a woman earning only 80.5 percent of what a man earns.
These are just some of the weaknesses of U.S. democracy, which, for more than a few, is deteriorating or at least faltering.
We will see fateful results that will have no name, but only cold numbers in the statistics.
The United States is becoming increasingly polarized. Dire times are sure to come.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The President spent much of the time he had to speak (because we spoke more) explaining what it means to lead a country that is blockaded and attacked by the media. At the same time, he reaffirmed what has always been the maxim of this Revolution, to move forward in spite of the blockade, not to stop in front of it.
As it happened to me when I had the opportunity to exchange views with Deputy Minister Johana Odriozola, I realized that managing the economy in the midst of a war like the one we are living through, without applying a neo-liberal adjustment package, requires tremendous effort and inventiveness, and is extremely complex.
Johana told us: “It is as if they wake up every day and say, how are these people still breathing? And wherever they find a vent, they plug it up”. The President confirmed this when he told us that we have just received important help with oxygen, which is so badly needed, “but I won’t say where it comes from, because if I do, they block it”.
Faced with this, I contrasted how easy it is to sit down to write with the aim of discrediting, sometimes even from other latitudes, without any real difficulty, prescriptions of what the President, or this minister or this organization or the other should do. It requires a tremendous dose of arrogance. It is good to give an opinion, but a little humility would be good for all of us as long as we do not cease in the exercise of criticism.
I noticed the commendable work done by so many people on a daily basis to move this country forward, in silence, women leading the industry, the police, science, agriculture, the National Program for the Advancement of Women. I realize the sterility of so many discussions in social networks that are exhausted in who is right about one issue or another, while so many work hard in all fields, including the social sciences, with much work and less words and vanity.
There is a very strong struggle in Cuba between the oppression and hopelessness produced by so many years of toil due to economic shortages and the desire to move forward with all the fairness that the Revolution has meant. This is a dramatic expression of the class struggle. It is the resistance to the violence of imperialism, concretized in advancing over the economic terrorism that is done to us. And, in short, as Ileana Macías says, “In my neighborhood, if there is food, nobody cares about anything else”.
Cuban women have emancipated ourselves tremendously. However, the tears there, of some of them, denounce that this equality has cost us to go head-on against a patriarchy that we have not yet managed to banish completely. We women have been the most important pillar of the Revolution because not only did we advance towards every trench in the vanguard, but also because we did so without ceasing to support the houses of all in the rearguard.
Those were the words cried by the one who coordinates an important working commission of the FMC in defense of women’s equity. The National Program for the Advancement of Women is perhaps one of the most advanced public policies proposed by any state in the world in this field.
In Cuba, any woman, regardless of age, profession, income level, skin color, feels entitled to speak to her President without any protocol whatsoever. To tell him what she thinks and feels without any filter. That is rare in a world like the one we live in, where most presidents come to power to represent the interests of untouchable elites.
There I did not see one more candidate in a clientelist play to capture votes. I saw a man seriously concerned about capturing the ideas and feelings of all, to fully assume his responsibility to the country, with a collective leadership style. For those who are so concerned about dialogue and democracy, the system is in very good health in that sense, although it also has important challenges ahead.
Popular wisdom sees: it knows how to differentiate between what is fair and what is not, because dignity and life are at stake. Ileana went from La Güinera to there, not to be right or to say the last word, she went to speak for her neighborhood and to ask for it. That is the wise thing to do and that is what she said. We are facing a leadership style of a vocation to listen and serve a collective project, a style inherited from Fidel’s school and unprecedented in today’s world.
This exercise of dialogue with various sectors of the population, of the highest leadership of a country, in fact, its President and also First Secretary of the PCC, speaks of a feature of Cuban socialism that has much to show the world in terms of democracy.
Let us bear witness to this, because the hegemonic media will not tell it. It is clear that I am not avoiding in this recognition the awareness of all the democracy that is still missing. We need to be in spaces like this so that the mirage of the fracture of consensus and the disintegration of the social fabric that we imagine in our rhetoric does not prevent us from seeing reality.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Cuban women will always be at the side of the Revolution, in defense of the principles and rights conquered for more than six decades. This was emphasized by Teresa Amarelle Boué, member of the Political Bureau and secretary-general of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), an organization that, with that conviction, as part of its essence, will reach its 61st anniversary.
In the midst of the media misrepresentation campaign against Cuba, she referred to Granma that fighting it is among the Federation’s priorities: “We are an organization that has legal authority, a non-governmental organization, but that does not mean that we are against the Government or the leadership of the Revolution, because it was the Revolution that dignified Cuban women and that is what we defend.
“We defend the Revolution because we want that in Cuba women have the right to employment, that there are schools, free education and that our women can be more than 62% of university graduates,” she said.
In another moment of her statements, during a meeting held with the press, she highlighted the importance of the National Program for the Advancement of Women. “Women have to know what the Program proposes; this work we are doing in the communities, the laundromats we are increasing, the strategy itself on violence, which should come out in the next few days with a legal norm; the work we are doing in the Women and Family Guidance Houses.
“We must start in the communities a workshop on gender violence, and we are also working on training the Police and legal personnel on everything that has to do with women’s rights so that they are in a position to exercise a better role in this regard.”
She said that next August 23 the FMC will reach its 61st anniversary with the motivations left by the 8th Party Congress. She pointed out that they will organize dialogues among women in each of the municipalities, and the Fidel and the Revolution of Women workshops, on the occasion of the 95th birthday of the Commander in Chief, always respecting the epidemiological norms.
Among the actions to be carried out in the coming days are a process of deep community intervention to stimulate citizen participation in the communities, as well as volunteer work, special matinees and recognitions to artists, founders and outstanding women in the fight against the pandemic.
The tribute to Vilma Espín Guillois will take place on August 23 at the Second Front, in the mausoleum where her remains rest. The commemorative day will also include the presentation of the Mariana Grajales and Ana Betancourt orders, the August 23 distinction and the 60th Anniversary stamp.
Liudmila Peña Herrera,
Lisandra Gómez Guerra,
Dorelys Canivell CanaL
Published: Thursday 13 May 2021 | 10:30:46 pm. Updated: Friday 14 May 2021 | 03:55:27 pm.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Every time María Alejandra’s menstruation is late, she and her husband’s pulse quickens. The 35-year-old woman jokes that surely the female is coming, behind her boys, and he makes a face like he wants to pull his hair out, because “two are more than enough”. Then she returns to the subject that was almost forbidden that afternoon when he told her that he agreed to opt for male sterilization (vasectomy). However, it all remained a fleeting phrase.
“We had that conversation in front of my mother-in-law, who, upon hearing my proposal, screamed her head off,” says this Havana native, who currently uses condoms as the only contraceptive method, which was difficult to obtain more than a year ago.
There are many people who face the dilemma of finding the best way to control birth control or to put an end to their fertility. Ideally, the decision should be made in a consensual manner with the couple, but this is not always what prevails.
The 48th edition of Cuba’s Health Statistical Yearbook -which contains updated information up to 2019- states that intrauterine devices (IUDs) had the highest percentage (52.2 percent in that year) of contraceptive coverage, followed by female sterilization (tubal ligation), which reached 22.6 percent in 2019.
According to that document, this last value is the highest recorded since 1995 (the date from which the comparisons start). Other contraceptive methods referred to were pills, injectables and condoms. It is worth noting that male sterilization was not included among the options, at least not reported.
So common, it seems natural to many people that birth control is mostly a female concern, even if there are men who are willing to take a leading role.
A survey conducted in the streets of Sancti Spiritus shows the prevailing patriarchal ideology that affects these decisions. Among the opinions identified with this type of concepts, those that stand out are those that maintain that women should worry more because men have children, but if they want to, they do not raise them; if they change their mind after tubal ligation, they can go to the doctor and he will always know what to do.
The “discomfort” involved in the use of condoms and the discomfort associated with IUDs were also mentioned. Another of the ideas naturalized by popular opinion is that “if a woman has a cesarean section, she takes advantage of it and gets her tubes tied”.
This is confirmed by Claudia Bernal Castillo, who opted for tubal ligation surgery. We didn’t even talk about it at home,” explains the 32-year-old. If we only wanted two children, and we already had them, why let that moment go by”.
This is one of the reasons that move patients to request the surgical procedure to the Sancti Spíritus doctors Omar Rangel and Miguel González Bellón, specialists in Gynecology and Obstetrics, who assure that it happens “as a consequence of machismo”.
“This is a definitive and irreversible method of family planning. Although the application of methods to reverse it has been registered, the predominant thing is the appearance of ectopic pregnancies, which are a danger for the woman”, says Bellón.
Dr. Rangel adds: “It is always explained that it is not necessary to perform the procedure during the cesarean section, because it is more invasive and can generate a greater number of maternal deaths, since it involves a surgical intervention. It can be performed laparoscopically -which is less invasive and less risky- 48 hours postpartum”.
The possibility of complications was what made Yaritza Cabrera, 36 years old and a resident of the capital, desist from this procedure, minutes before the cesarean section. “When they were preparing me for the operation, including the oxygen mask, I vomited and almost choked. I was afraid that my blood pressure would rise, because I became tachycardic, so I told the doctor: ‘Forget about the ligature,'” she recalls.
Although both physicians from Sancti Spiritus agree that requesting this procedure is a woman’s right, they recommend it, especially under certain circumstances. Dr. Rangel explains that it is done up to the age of 39 and 40, and never before the age of 24. He also states that it is sometimes necessary to perform it on multiparous patients, those with serious psychiatric problems, decompensated diabetics and those with renal insufficiency.
Both consider that there is an urgent need to improve the culture regarding the use of multiple contraceptive methods: mechanical, endocrine, implants, tablets, etc., so that surgical intervention is not recurrent. “In the family planning consultation, which should be attended as a couple, providers should be trained to provide guidance, according to all the possibilities, so that the best option is chosen,” concluded Dr. Bellón.
Among the techniques used to write this report was a qualitative survey carried out in a private group created by this team for journalistic purposes (Experimento para textos periodísticos) on the social network Facebook, which is made up of 900 users residing in the country.
Most of the women acknowledged that when they decided to end their fertility through surgery, they made the decision alone, without consulting their partner. Some responded that they never thought of proposing to him to have a vasectomy, and it is noteworthy that several of them tried to negotiate to see which one would work best for them.
Several tried to negotiate to see which of the two would undergo the surgery, but it was not possible to reach an agreement. Two girls even proposed to their husbands to have it done and they were offended.
This is still a taboo subject,” says Yinet Córdova, from Holguín. I used condoms for many years because I couldn’t use other methods, and I gave them up when I was sterilized endoscopically, because my husband refused to have a vasectomy”.
For Rouslyn Navia, a resident of Havana, the story has not been much different. At 37 years old and with two children, she does not intend to get pregnant again. She did not opt for ligation during the cesarean section “for fear that the recovery would be more painful. Then I tried to negotiate with my husband to have the vasectomy, since he has several children. He did not agree.
Vasectomy is a surgical technique whose purpose is male sterilization, when the man has decided to put a definitive end to his fertility. However, urologist and andrologist Ramiro Fragas Valdés, specialist in Urology and master in Sexuality at the Cira García Central Clinic, in Havana, warns that, although it can be performed since the 1970s, “it is not practiced as much as it could be because, when couples are referred, they think more about tubal ligation, and because it is the woman who generally opts for sterilization. The idea is to change that, especially because vasectomy is a much simpler and less risky procedure for a man than tubal ligation is for a woman”.
One of the issues that prevent men from opting for this technique, in addition to prejudice, is misinformation. In the survey, most of the participants assured that they would not dare to have it done, and considered that the subject should have a greater presence in the media.
Although some said that “it is not a necessary method if the woman can get pregnant” and that “they say it is very painful”, it is striking that more than half of the men said that “it should be a more accessible option” and “information should be offered in family planning consultations and in sex education in schools”.
These opinions coincide with the opinion of Dr. Fragas, who believes that “if we break the taboo of machismo, if we make the method more widely known, and if we get family planning programs to offer it as an option to couples, vasectomy would be practiced much more than female sterilization, we would save resources, and we would save money. With female sterilization, we would save resources and take better care of women”.
T is a middle-aged man, a doctor, from Havana and childless. He does not want to mention his name, but agrees to share his experience because, despite wanting to undergo the surgery for many years, it has not been possible for him to do so. For years, it has not been possible for him. He says that he never wanted to have offspring, which is why, since he was a medical student, he asked about that possibility.
“First, it was not feasible because I was very young,” he recalls. Then, because I had no children. Later, I was frightened by the unwillingness I found to receive help with postoperative pain management. When I told myself I could handle it, the childlessness story came back.
T’s doubts and concerns may be those of other men. That is why we asked Dr. Fragas, also a member of the board of directors of the Cuban Urology Society, about these issues. The specialist explains that “vasectomy is a very simple surgery that is performed in 15 minutes. The rest period is two or three days, and sexual activity can be resumed after a week”.
However, he believes it is necessary to be clear that “the reversal -in case the patient wants to have children later- takes at least two hours because it is done through microsurgery, and the results are not always favorable. Therefore, it is generally recommended for couples in which the man and the woman are over 35 years old. It cannot be a hasty decision and should be promoted among stable unions, with two children or more”.
Dr. Fragas has extensive experience in this type of surgery, and between the incisional method and the one that does not require a scalpel (Li technique), he prefers the latter, although in his opinion both are equally effective.
“There are patients who feel safer with the traditional technique, with a scalpel,” explains the doctor, who in 2009 presented in Barcelona a casuistry of approximately 400 patients who had undergone surgery, together with other experts. It is also very simple, and one or two small incisions are made. Li’s technique does not change much, but the fact that it does not use a scalpel, that it is performed through a single incision in the median raphe under local anesthesia, makes it more attractive”.
The urologist assures us that the experience of these men, when the doctor makes an appointment to see them to see how it went, is very favorable. “They are very happy with the method and recommend it as something safe and simple,” he says.
Dr. Iliana Armas Ampudia, First Degree Urology and MGI specialist, and member of the Provincial Infertility Consultation in Pinar del Río, corroborates her colleague’s explanation and adds:
“The patient walks in and out of the consultation and should not have any complications. However, it is a very unusual practice. In more than ten years in the specialty, I have barely performed four, and I have colleagues who have performed one or two. Society still has many taboos about these issues. Men should know that it does not affect virility: their erections will remain the same, as will their ejaculation, only free of spermatozoa”.
He also points out that “the couple should continue to take care of themselves for up to three months after the surgery to completely avoid any risk of pregnancy”.
At the age of 67, Georgina Venegas, from Pinar del Río, remembers with gratitude the decision of her husband, journalist Rafael Cao, now deceased. He decided to have a vasectomy so that she would not have to undergo a ligation. It was the early 1990s, and Georgina had undergone two back-to-back terminations.
“We had one child together, and he had another from a first marriage. I had already turned 39, and I told him, ‘I’m going to have to tie the knot, unless you do.’ I just had to ask,” she says.
After a tenacious search in surgical records and operative reports by the nurses of the Urology service in Pinar del Río, this team managed to talk to Alfredo Miló, who underwent a vasectomy in 2019 to prevent his wife, already with two very complex pregnancies due to preeclampsia, from having to enter a salon again.
“Before deciding on a vasectomy, we looked at other alternative methods, but none of them satisfied us. I would tell her, ‘I don’t want you to go to the operating room,’ and she would say, ‘I do want you to go, but to have a vasectomy. Not knowing what it was like and with my machismo in front of me, I did not agree, and so we worked for several years, until I was convinced.
“During the operation I felt no pain. The recovery was perfect. I can tell those who doubt that vasectomy transports you to a world where worries are over.”
His wife, Yamilka Rodriguez, confesses that it was not at all easy to convince him, because “there was a lot of pressure from society and even from the family; even when he entered the salon they told him not to do it”.
Today, Yamilka says, not many people are surprised:
“Women ask me how I got her to have it done and men tell her: ‘You’re crazy, no woman deserves to have that done for them’. It is a deep-rooted machismo. In the face of that, I say that we are happy”.
As this is an issue that is discussed (when dialogue is achieved) within the couple, in the Family Planning Consultation of the municipality of Pinar del Río, each of the options available to avoid pregnancy is explained. In this regard, Dr. Lázara Medina Martínez, who has a diploma in Comprehensive Care for Women and a master’s degree in Communicable Diseases, points out that “vasectomy, in particular, is almost never accepted”.
From 2012 to date, during the time she has been working in this practice, only two couples have opted for this method, in both cases because the women had pathologies that prevented them from undergoing ligation.
In sexual and coupled life, as in social life, everyone has their own contexts, realities and determinants. It is true that as a country we are gaining more and more information and debate on topics that have traditionally been considered off-limits, or only of interest to sectors such as women, in the case of birth control and the end of fertility; but as long as there are options that have not been taken advantage of because of macho cultural patterns, there is still much to communicate and discuss.
On this path, there is nothing better than to seek guidance from specialists and positive experiences. Fortunately, when one looks to the horizon, one finds examples such as those of Ernesto Herrera, from Holguín, who has just become a father. He is sure that, “when the time comes, vasectomy will be the option I will take. It is safer and less traumatic than a ligation for my wife. It is also an act of love.
For March 8 (and beyond)
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
A friend of mine posts on her Facebook wall a comment in which she regrets what she considers to be an example of insufficient diversity in the images that, on the television screen, were used to present (and represent) Cuban women in the celebration of March 8. My friend is black, with a deeply dark skin tone.
Here’s a topic, I say to myself, and then I remember that years ago I wrote an article for the newspaper Juventud Rebelde about the transformations that -in terms of beauty standards- had taken place in the country since the years of my childhood.
The article focused on the perceptions and meanings of black people’s hair and hairstyle and, on this basis, proposed assessments in which racism and freedom, the hidden mechanisms of domination and the battles of the subjects in search of their real emancipation were confronted.
After that I wrote two other articles, which were not published at the time:. The first aimed to analyze the connections between obesity, beauty and social control; the other took as its motif the case of a woman in England who had announced on her personal website that she would stop shaving her legs and who – from then on – began to receive dozens (eventually hundreds) of denigrating messages, some of which contained threats to her physical integrity.
How and where, by whom and with what effects do we construct the image of what a woman is? Better yet, in what way are the limits of what is considered – at a given moment in a particular society – possible for a woman to be and project? What participation do we have, even those of us who are willing to swear that we are not part of the process, in the infinite number of actions through which this “ideal” of what is supposedly feminine is molded?
This inevitably leads us to understand (and propose for debate) not only the responsibility in the production, distribution, control and consumption of images, but to lead us to a point where we are forced to ask ourselves: What have we done or do? What role do we play in the various forms and scenarios in which actions of micro-oppression of women are manifested?
Another friend tells me about the time when, at the exact moment of wearing a new dress for a night out she was looking forward to, she discovered -just as she arrived at the place- that the rush had made her mix up the ornaments and that she had put on two different earrings. She doesn’t know how much she taught me and I learned from her response when, contemplating her face in the mirror of a bathroom on-site, she said to herself: “it doesn’t matter: you are the fashion”.
I admire that way of not obeying the dictates of a codified norm, which pretends to define what you are in a perverse game, where visuality is supposed to make transparent the moral condition of the person and even her history itself. I admire that inner strength and will to self-affirmation.
A third friend uses her menstrual emissions, exactly that which, in a more evident way, transmits the “weakness” or “flaw” of the woman, to create -with that intimately personal matter- works of art. As in the previous example, the logic that presides over the action is that of the search for and expression of the most absolute freedom.
What is a woman, where is she, what are her limits, how is she represented/presented?
The face perfectly aligned with the Hellenic beauty patterns or the very dark skin accompanied by thick lips and a wide and flattened nose; the youthful figure that communicates agility and the other that moves with effort due to age; the straight hair, the implants, the straightening under the effect of keratin, the hair in the form of “afro”, in the so-called “carreritas” or in long and powerful “drelos”; the thin or overabundant, obese contour; the gesture of a dapper style or with a wider arc in the movement of the hands; the image of a “traditional” femininity (in which ideals of “fragility”, “delicacy” and “sensuality” prevail) or the reverse of the “masculinized” female, which is usually attributed to the lesbian; with tattoos, “piercings”, hair dyed in unusual colors (green, blue, orange): it’s all women.
Peasant women, highly skilled professionals, housewives, workers in an industry or construction site, we need images of the most extraordinary diversity possible to “refresh” our images and approach women, ask questions, get closer to their struggles, offer them solidarity and push together with them the limits of presence, representation and participation in new worlds.
And that is what a Revolution is: a new world.
I end with a personal story. A few years ago my children Kenneth, Karen and I got tattoos. On that occasion the one that my wife dreams of for herself was left pending: the Elvish word for FREE.
By Paquita Armas Fonseca, a Cuban journalist specialized in cultural issues. She is a regular contributor to Cubadebate and other digital media such as La Jiribilla, CubaSi and the Cuban Television Portal. She was director of El Caimán Barbudo.
February 4, 2021
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Degree in Psychology, PhD in Psychological Sciences, Master in Sexuality and Sexuality Pedagogy, Professor and Senior Researcher, President of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for the Study of Sexuality (SOCUMES). Beatriz Torres Rodriguez is the Bety who once a week has been talking about Sexuality and daily life for 20 years, first on CHTV and then on Canal Habana.
That has been one of her jobs as a communicator, she has had others (you will find them in this text) and soon she will be the host of Miradas sin excusas, a magazine that will precede the awaited series Rompiendo el silencio (Breaking the Silence). “The panels do not comment on the chapters of the serial, but make reflections and look for alternatives and turning points to prevent gender violence to give alternatives for coping with it” stresses this charismatic psychologist:
-Why Psychology? Is there a gene in the family?
When choosing a career as a teenager, generally as in my case, there is no effective professional orientation, but I have always been a passionate reader and lover of cinema and I was attracted by the characteristics of the characters, how they faced conflicts, how there could be different alternative solutions, which not only depended on the environment in which people developed, among other elements and that approached the studies, which I later learned, were the components of the psychological framework. Also, because from what I knew was a helping profession, at that time with the vision of patients with psychiatric disorders, which constituted and constitute for me a great mystery, despite the years of professional practice.
There is no specialist in my family related to this science.
Since I was a student at the Psychology Department of the University of Havana, I became interested in this subject and received extracurricular courses given by what was at that time the National Group for Sex Education. At the same time, I began my professional practice in a Mental Health Center, and I saw how mental health disorders, whether the most complex and chronic or the most acute, mostly have an impact on sexuality and life as a couple, at different ages of life, which leads to present, from discomfort related to this area, to disorders, with a great burden of suffering in most cases.
This was later enriched by working at the Center for Medical and Surgical Research, where I expanded my diapason to the accompaniment and treatment of patients with chronic diseases, especially non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease among others and the impact they have on sexuality, not only because of the disease itself, but also because of all the stigmas and prejudices of the patient himself, the couple, the team of professionals and society, mostly due to the lack of knowledge or undervaluation of these issues and the impact they have on the welfare of people regardless of the disease they have.
For ten years I have been the president of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for the Study of Sexuality (SOCUMES), one of its multiple lines of research is precisely gender violence.
In recent years I have also participated in counseling for women in situations of gender violence, where the implications are very marked in their sexuality, self-esteem and well-being, among others. In other words, for me it is an area of knowledge of great need and sensitivity and that, in our culture, since it is considered by the majority of the population as a private matter, people delay a lot in asking for help and in some cases do not do it at all.
-Where and when did you start as a communicator?
I started in 2000 on TV in CHTV, in its magazine, with the session Sexuality and daily life, with journalist Dianik Flores, a session that I later continued in Canal Habana, since its foundation 15 years ago, together with a group of prestigious directors and hosts such as Sandra, Magdiel and the entire production team, which has allowed me to grow as a person and as a professional and a systematic dialogue with viewers, because I keep a space within the session to answer them, based on the questions of the topics presented in the space. This exchange has been very enriching and I have been given alternatives of help or orientation to different services in the cases I require. Hearing, analyzing and learning from other colleagues whom I admire and who also have their section in the Magazine, has been very useful for me.
I have participated in other TV programs, such as El triángulo de la confianza, De tarde en casa, Entre tú y yo and Pasaje a lo desconocido, among others.
In addition, since 2005 and for several years, I developed in the newspaper Trabajadores a digital consultation on sexuality in their health page. The session was called “Let’s talk about sexuality”, which for years was a very interesting experience, receiving various questions from people of different ages, marital status, schooling, even from other countries, which allowed me to get feedback on the issues that most often concerned the population about sexuality and life as a couple and that many did not dare to raise, neither to their own partners, nor in the space of consultation, so we could see the usefulness of this space. I would like to acknowledge the collaboration of the journalist Carmen Alfonso, in charge of this health page.
I have seen the importance of communication on these issues in the media, since it allows a large group in the population to become aware, reflect and learn. At the same time, as a specialist, it has helped me to be aware of what concerns the population the most, in order to be able to offer help alternatives.
-Have you taken a speech course?
In 2008-2009, together with other specialists in charge of sessions at Canal Habana and a group of journalists, I took a speech course, which was very useful and a necessary learning experience.
-How long did you prepare for this job?
I was invited to be the host or moderator of the panels of specialists of the magazine Miradas sin excusas, before the presentation of the chapters of the serial Rompiendo el silencio. Although the preparation time was short, we had the necessary and deep table work, both with its director and screenwriter Elena Palacios, Altair Reyes, the head of production and advisor Karina Paz, magnificent professionals, with whom we developed an excellent teamwork.
In addition, for some years, I have had an approach from the research with the problems related to gender violence, I was one of the coordinators of the Consensus of Gender Violence, organized in 2018 by SOCUMES and in the meetings of researchers in gender violence, organized by the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Center. For the last 5 years, we have jointly organized a colloquium on this topic. For three years I have been part of the counseling team for women in situations of gender violence in this institution. All this has made it easier for me to raise awareness and deepen my knowledge of these issues.
-What topics will be discussed?
It is a specialized magazine of analysis of the different expressions of gender violence, which will serve as a framework for the two seasons of the series Breaking the Silence. It tells the stories of women and girls in situations of violence, in its different forms of presentation, from the most recognized and obvious, such as physical violence and sexual abuse, to the more subtle, but no less serious, such as psychological and other types of violence. In its second season, it expands and diversifies to other forms of violence, such as violence against men. There is a representation of the different contexts where it can occur, such as the family, the couple, school, work, among others.
Its first season was intentionally broadcast in early December 2016, in the framework of the Day for Non-Violence against Women and Girls. For the first time, a national teleseries addressed this issue of gender violence as a central axis, which continues in its second season as a common thread.
The themes of this second season are related to:
Sexual violence against girls, adolescents and adult women in its different forms of expression.
The consequences of gender violence affect the main victims (women), but also the rest of the family members and the perpetrators themselves.
One of the consequences of GBV is the reproduction of violence, particularly for women in the double condition of victim-victimizer.
Symbolic violence that uses women’s bodies to exercise control.
Gender violence towards homosexual men, homophobia, transphobia, paternity and homosexuality.
Rape within the family.
Violence between men.
Stories of characters with their conflicts, limited situations and responses to them are presented, with the aim of provoking recognition, analysis and awareness of this phenomenon of gender violence.
-Could you comment on the specialists?
The panels were composed of specialists from different fields of knowledge, who had two characteristics in common:
They were experts in their fields of knowledge and in issues related to GBV.
They are very sensitive to these issues.
We had 58 appearances, according to the characteristics of the topics, there were experts who participated in more than one panel on several occasions. Psychologists, Sociologists, Jurists, Journalists, Anthropologists, Pedagogues, Doctors, Historians, Filmmakers, Communicators and Photography Professionals, among others, were represented. Teamwork was achieved and the most important thing, in my opinion, is that we sought to enlighten the population on these issues, to see the signs of GBV, its causes, repercussions in the family, society, the different alternatives to face it and where to find turning points in the different situations that arise, in order not to reproduce violence and, most importantly, to prevent it.
-Any recommendations for viewers?
Not to be alarmed by these issues, since the important thing is to recognize the different forms of GBV, and that this is a social problem of such importance, that to stop at the number, or if it is more or less frequent, is not the essential thing, but if a single woman, girl or any person is in these situations, it deserves all our effort and attention. The most important thing is to PREVENT, so that GBV and any form of violence does not become naturalized. Hence the political will of our country and its institutions to achieve an effective, comprehensive and integrated response. This magazine is part of this effort, of the many that are needed.
The FMC, together with other institutions, is leading this strategy, which is already showing signs such as the helpline and the Women’s Advancement Program, among others.
-Is there anything I haven’t asked you or anything you’d also like to say?
Finally, I would like to thank once again the entire team of the magazine and Ms. Mareleen Díaz Tenorio, with whom we had a systematic exchange during the entire filming process, since she was the capable advisor of the series Breaking the Silence.
(Taken from TVC’s website)
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Author: Ernesto Estévez Rams | firstname.lastname@example.org
February 3, 2021 00:02:34 AM
She confessed to me several times that she danced rock ‘n’ roll. The white variant, which was the one that became popular in Cuba, that of Elvis Presley. When she told me that she danced rock ‘n’ roll, she meant that she used to get her hair disheveled dancing to that devil’s music. She spun around, jumped, was lifted up and thrown to land again to the rhythm of the music. A neighborhood policeman, intolerant and arrogant, came with a lemon in his hand, and made the men drop the lemon inside their pants to see if it would roll down one of their legs. If you didn’t fall, you were in trouble. For the ladies, a tape measure with a visible red mark. Measuring the length of the skirt above the knee, if it was below the scarlet line, you were in trouble. Those were times when you couldn’t talk much with the police.
At that time, she sewed with her mother and sisters to earn a living and took a course in interior design as a way to improve her skills. She was the face in the ECLO of an American food brand. Standing up, smiling, she showed the products and offered samples for consumers to taste the wonders of what was advertised. Her luck wasn’t the worst either. If she had been black, she was useless as an image. For those of black complexion, their lucky destiny was to be a maid, or a servant, whatever you prefer to call them.
Then the Revolution triumphed. She enlisted as a volunteer teacher and was a compañero of Conrado Benítez. Despite her youth and inexperience, she was put in charge of several boarding schools. They were entire neighborhoods converted into schools, once run by the bourgeoisie or their cronies. Now, a school for poor women, peasant women, urban women, humble women.
Her sister also enlisted as a literacy volunteer and became a literacy teacher. The other sister, the eldest, the same luck, and what luck! They became teachers, they taught. They learned. She, the director of the school, knew all of La Lisa, La Coronela, Playa. The houses of the officers of the defeated army became schools, she became the teacher of other women. In the photos, the microphone higher than her physical stature. Speaking, guiding, directing, raising her arm in harangue, waving her hand.
She was a delegate, president of the CDR, militia member, company leader, Party militant. She was white, she married a black man from Guantanamo. A black man who fought in the underground, a black man who became a university student. A black man who is still by her side today. He was a teacher, a cane cutter, a company leader, founder of the Party. And along the way, at some point, they had time to have children. They, the two of them, neighbors to anyone, not unlike so many others in the same place, in the same circumstances.
My mother asks me, after reading something someone posted, what is this feminism. I explain. She, 80 years old, looks at me, and before getting up from the armchair, she tells me in a casual tone: Son, here, since 1959, we call it Revolution.
Published: Tuesday 12 January 2021 | 08:41:40 pm
Author: Mileyda Menéndez Dávila
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
When talking about the Middle Ages and Antiquity in Europe and its nearby territories, it seems that women were always subject to male power, without the right to participate or manipulated in government debates, relegated to the role of feeding themselves, excluded from war, science or other basic functions for the human group to which they belonged.
This is what those who consider the concept of equity as a recent “invention” say, and how they describe matriarchy as a system of male slavery and humiliation.
Recent archaeological findings and new readings of ancient texts from a feminist perspective agree that, although misogyny and patriarchy were widespread in many regions with similar expressions, there were civilizations in which women lived alongside men and played important social roles.
Supposedly barbaric and backward cultures, such as that of the Vikings and the one that inhabited India before the Aryan invasions, left evidence of a respectful and even venerable treatment of women and people of non-binary gender in their beliefs, traditions and social structure.
Preserved manuscripts from those times and legends that have survived orally indicate that in addition to respecting the right of women to decide about their bodies and to choose partners of any caste, an infinite number of tribes and clans validated non-heterosexual practices (common among warriors and priestesses), and ambivalent gender identities, visible in graphic representations of everyday life and of their gods and goddesses, which also abounded.
In the case of the Vikings, the journal Economics and Human Biology published a study that correlates the nutritional health of the Scandinavian population between ten and 15 centuries ago with the social values that intended equity by gender and age.
Biochemical tests confirm, by the quality and development of the bones found in several settlements, that women were free and active, and from birth they ate at the same time as adult men, not at the end.
Many were trained for war, fishing and hunting, led groups and inherited positions and properties. The most revered were the Valkyries: large women who collected dying and dead bodies in battle to help them move, according to their traditions, into the eternal and sacred world they called Valhalla.
Those customs of the Nordic “savages” were a shock for the descendants of the Greco-Latin culture, who built palaces and roads, dominated the arts and agriculture, but in their cultured cities women had no right to study or own property, did not talk to other men and could be given away as servants by their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.
The legislations of the current Nordic countries, heirs to the Viking culture, guarantee effective and palpable justice without gender discrimination, while many states born of the Judeo-Christian forge cling to a patriarchal hierarchy in homes and social spaces that has unleashed many wars and justified discrimination for hundreds of generations.
Other archaeological findings of the mid-twentieth century in well-preserved ancient cities, but hidden by nature, confirmed the respect for women as a source of life in the Indus civilization, without such deference to represent for men an economic or social disadvantage, as told in the book Tantra, the cult of the feminine, which we can provide to our readers by digital means.
That tradition of honoring the Mother as a social being (not only as a producer of labor) disappeared with the caste system imposed after the northern invasions, when girls and women became, along with the cattle, a resource to be exploited by the conquerors to survive in hostile terrain and to adapt genetically to the climate.
Also in pre-Columbian America and the original African societies there were stages and cultures in which women flourished alongside their male counterparts. As in other processes of conquest throughout the world, were the hosts “civilizing” which established the male hierarchy to control the lines of inheritance in the territories razed.
By (re)knowing these versions of common history, humanity is better able to write its present and place dignity as the essential value promoted by the Magna Carta of almost all nations.