Gender violence is no longer being seen as a taboo subject on the island. It is even being addressed by the media, but experience shows that related myths and prejudices remain.
There are still some oft-repeated phrases like "she likes to be given some beating once in a while," "she really deserved it", and "nobody should butt in between husband and wife." All of them approach violence as something private and make it difficult to prevent further harm and provide victims with much-needed support.
"I have witnessed three violent arguments between men and women on the beach in the last couple of months," said Berta Vázquez, a resident in Havana.
"And police got involved only in one case. I heard a man say that things usually end up this way after a lot of drinking," she recalled.
Luis O. Abascal, an engineer at an electricity company in the eastern province of Granma , was recently expelled from work simply because he had Catherine Hood's Sexual Guide for the 21st Century in his office laptop.
The news was published last July 25 by Francisco Rodríguez, editor-in-chief of Trabajadores weekly newspaper.
Produced in 2006, the eight-episode series on human sexuality includes expert opinions and graphic images.
The press article indicated that a disciplinary committee had made the decision based on the content of the material. "It is not pornographic, but it certainly goes against social interests and good manners," said the committee chairman.
Understanding the impact of social discrimination against men having sex with men (MSM) can help formulate effective STI and HIV/AIDS prevention strategies.
Amarilys Santos is a 17-year-old intermediate-level student living in Rodas, a municipality in the central province of Cienfuegos.
"I am really worried. I had a rapid HIV/AIDS test performed some time ago and the result was negative. But my ex-boyfriend was HIV-positive diagnosed, so I had another test done," she said.
She had been going out with this young man for three years and was only recently informed that he had been practicing transitional sex with other men and that she was pregnant.
Local TV shows have so far failed to come up with an effective approach to sexuality in children and adolescents, according to some experts.
This situation is influenced by many factors, including production and programming policies, and artist views.
"Both producers and directors often convey their own personal messages (experiences and values), which are not always in line with the actual needs of children and youngsters," said Elsa Carrasco, a speaker at a meeting last July 14.
Organized on a monthly basis by the National Association of Cuban Artists and Writers (UNEAC) and the Oscar A. Romero Reflection and Solidarity Group (OAR), the event was attended by critics, artists and general public.
The Cuban Network on Gender and Public Health (RCGSC), which was established under the umbrella of the Latin American Association of Public Health (ALAMES) and the National School of Public Health (ENSAP), strongly favors the application of the gender approach to healthcare policies and programs.
The statement was made at a local workshop held last July 11 at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Havana.
The Network had been set up at a Meeting on Gender and Health parallel to the 8th ALAMES Congress in 2000. "Cuba has fully endorsed PAHO and WHO policies and action plans, but they have not always been fully explored," said Leticia Artiles, a gender/health expert and former Network coordinator.
Workshop participants highlighted the need to conduct further health-related studies applying the gender approach.
The number of women’s murders has grown by 40 percent in the last five years, as a result of widespread violence in the country.
Most of these women were raped by policemen, criminals and even the military before they got killed.
Police reports indicated that 63 percent of these victims were tortured and that their mutilated or dismembered bodies were thrown in public areas, including roads and ways.
Soraya Vázquez, a legal advisor to the Women’s Institute in the Federal District, told SEMlac that this information contrasts sharply with statistical data suggesting that local women were being killed only by their sexual partners.
The local government’s decision to censor some reggaeton themes has sparked controversy all over the country.
It all began earlier this month, when women’s organizations like the Council for Abused Women and the Foundation for a Violence-Free Society asked the Public Shows Commission to discourage the broadcast of reggaeton songs conveying negative messages to children and teenagers.
Shortly after the request was made, the Commission banned 22 songs by five different bands, arguing that they go against moral and family values, are degrading to women, or encourage violence and drug abuse.
The move seems excessive to some leaders of women’s movements and to the musicians themselves, including Puerto Ricans like Calle 13, Tego Calderón and Ñejo, and Dominicans like Pablo Piddy and El Poeta Callejero (The Street Poet).
The United Nations Population Fund decided to focus on girls, women and youngsters on the occasion of the World Population Day last July 11.
The world population is expected to reach seven billion this year. Aware of the fact that the decisions that are made today will have quite an impact on the health of the planet tomorrow, the Fund is seeking to promote mass participation and solidarity around the globe.
"The youth of today is changing society and helping build a better future for all," said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin.
There are over 1.5 billion people aged 10 to 24 living in the world. This is the highest number of youngsters in history, and most of them reside in developing countries.
The documentary film Páginas de la educación en Cuba (Cuban education pages), which was written and directed by Ernesto A. Vázquez, has just been given the Elena Gil Iberian-American Ethics Award by the Félix Varela Center.
The jury made its decision in recognition of Vázquez ethical approach to education in Cuba during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The five-episode film, which has not been premiered on the island yet, features interviews with outstanding scholars, dramatizations, and archive images.
"Vázquez work team has developed an impeccable audiovisual material, including photography, sound mixing, editing and post-production," a judge said.
Changes in sexuality over the last few decades have had quite an impact on demographic indicators like fertility.
Heydi Cárdenas, a 37-year-old nurse living in Havana, fully agrees with such a statement.
"My mother often told me that she had made a terrible mistake when she got married at 18 and had four children in a row. She confessed once that all she wanted was to get rid of her grandparents' control. I decided I would not make the same mistake," Cárdenas said.
"I had several boyfriends, but I really started living together with one of them when I was 28," she added.