Cuban TV shows Brokeback Mountain as part of anti-homophobia drive

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Governments local and national marked the International Day Against Homophobia on Saturday.

Cuba took the lead, with the largest meeting of gay activists in the island’s history.

In attendance was a leading member of the Castro dynasty, the daughter of the current President, Mariela.

“This is a very important moment for us, the men and women of Cuba, because for the first time we can gather in this way and speak profoundly and with scientific basis about these topics,” said Ms Castro.

The director of Cuba’s Centre for Sexual Education, she has been a champion for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people in the Communist state.

Despite the rhetoric, gays in Cuba face serious discrimination, and the meeting was dominated by discussions of how to change society’s attitudes.

“We should do that in a coherent, appropriate and precise way because these are topics that have been taboo and continue to be for many,” a leading parliamentarian told the meeting.

Gay activists also cautioned a subtle approach. Cuban state television did its part, screening the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain.

The Oscar-nominated tale of two American cowboys who fall in love, it has touched straight audiences across the world.

Other TV programmes, public debates and activities marked IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia, on Saturday.

Ms Castro, 45, has said previously that she wants to “enrich the Cuban Revolution” with her fight for equality between the sexes and gay rights.

She has been a strong supporter of legal moves to grant equal rights to all citizens, the first step towards same-sex unions and access to gender reassignment surgery.

Legislation is before the Cuban parliament.

Sexual diversity was seen by Fidel Castro as a corrupt consequence of capitalism.

Homosexual sex was partially decriminalised in Cuba in 1979 and an equal age of consent was introduced in 1992.

While social attitudes towards gay people are generally negative, the capital city Havana has a thriving gay scene. All gay rights organisations are banned.

Under Fidel Castro, who ruled from 1959 until February of this year, many gay men suffered in Cuban labour camps as the regime ‘re-educated’ homosexuals.

Gays were incarcerated in Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs) between 1965 and 1968.

Castro believed that hard work would rid the men of their “counter-revolutionary tendencies.”

The proposed change to Cuban family law would put members of same-sex unions on a par with heterosexuals.