Cuba is one of the most gender-equal nations in the Caribbean, an honor it has held since shortly after achieving independence in 1902. Women acquired voting rights in 1933, and Batista’s 1940 constitution was one of the most progressive in the world, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work to all its subjects. After 1959, the Cuban revolution continued to support gender equality by further leveling disparities in labor, sexual, educational, health, and political rights. Abortion was decriminalized in 1965, and by 2015 women held almost half of the parliamentary seats in the National Assembly.
Yet, if you scratch this shiny veneer of Cuba’s surface you’ll see a different reality. For example, Cuba is a country where wives still perform most household chores, which are not recognized as a legitimate job. In the context of equal pay for equal employment, taking time off work to care for the family means that the de facto salary of a woman does not match her male counterpart’s.
Worse still, at a time when the presence of women in the public sphere was increasing worldwide, Cuba was moving in the opposite direction. As the fabric of communist life began to fray in the 90s, women were nudged away from life outside the home and into what was regarded as their ‘natural’ role as caregivers. Given such premises, it is not surprising that amongst the dozen names tipped to replace Castro’s, none belonged to a female politician.
In fact, in spite of the regime’s support to sexual liberation and equal rights (on paper), machismo still permeates relations between the genders, as decried by the country’s only feminist outlet, Alas Tensas. According to its founder, domestic violence is far from unknown in Cuba, even though the government does not report its frequency nor recognize it as a separate criminal issue.
Nevertheless, the recent opening to small scale capitalism has presented all citizens—regardless of gender—with exciting opportunities for economic advancement. The high educational attainments and integration into the workforce of Cuban women meant that they were able to acquire leading roles in the country’s burgeoning private sector.
This itinerary will guide you through the magnificence of classic Havana—the architecture, the culture, the joyful people—while helping you support the amazing women working to advance female empowerment in Cuba.