Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, including spousal rape, and separately criminalizes “lascivious abuse” against both genders. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for rape are at least four years’ imprisonment. Several reports from women’s rights advocacy groups, however, suggested that crimes against women were underreported and that the state failed to investigate many cases. The government recognized the high rate of femicide for the first time in a report released in 2019, but there was no comprehensive law against gender-based violence, despite increasing reports of femicide during the pandemic. The online platforms Red Femenina de Cuba (Cuban Women’s Network), YoSiTeCreoEnCuba (I Do Believe You), and Alas Tensas (Taut Wings) magazine independently confirmed at least 27 femicides during the first eight months of the year, compared with 25 reported in all of 2020. These figures included the July 25 killing of a young woman and her mother in their home in a rural community in Villa Clara. Daniela Cintra Martin was allegedly stabbed to death by her young child’s father, who then fatally wounded her mother, Liena Martin, when she tried to defend her daughter. Official media sources failed to report any of these killings or to report on femicide statistics.
Red Femenina de Cuba activists called on the state to update information on crimes against women, train officials to handle crimes against women, and define gender-based violence in the law. The government opposed any non-state-sponsored programs that focused on gender violence. Police also targeted for harassment small groups of women assembling to discuss women’s rights and gender matters more broadly. The law prohibits all threats and violence but does not recognize domestic violence as a distinct category of violence. Penalties for violence range from fines to prison sentences of varying lengths, depending on the severity of the offense.
Sexual Harassment: The law provides penalties for sexual harassment, with potential prison sentences of three months to five years. The government did not release any statistics on arrests, prosecutions, or convictions for offenses related to sexual harassment during the year.
Reproductive Rights: There were some reports of abortions performed by government health authorities without clear consent from the mother. For example, doctors were documented as having performed abortions or pressured mothers into having an abortion when ultrasound scans revealed fetal abnormalities because “otherwise it might raise the infant mortality rate.” According to the journal Health Policy and Planning and other international sources, health authorities used abortions to improve infant mortality statistics artificially by preventing marginally riskier births to meet centrally fixed targets.
Many women, especially poor and young mothers, were required to spend their pregnancies in a state-run maternity home and could be involuntarily committed if they were deemed noncompliant with a physician’s advice. These establishments provided steady nutrition and access to medical care; however, they could deprive expecting mothers of the support of their partners, families, and communities. Pregnant women with COVID-19 were placed in isolation centers. One report described the stark conditions at Lenin Vocational Hospital, where the women were located on different floors from the doctors, requiring the pregnant COVID-19-positive patients to walk up and down three flights of stairs to be examined by a doctor. Beds at the facility were not changed between COVID-19-positive patients, and there was no water available, even for hand washing. The quarters were infested with mosquitoes, frogs, bats, and mice.
The government was the sole legal importer of all goods, which resulted in constant acute shortages of contraceptive products, particularly condoms. Nearly all births were attended by a skilled health worker, whom the law requires be employed by the state. It is illegal for private citizens, no matter their qualifications, to provide health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth.
By law the government provides access to sexual, psychosocial, and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence; in practice, however, the health care provided by the state was insufficient to meet survivors’ needs.
Discrimination: The law accords women and men equal rights, the same legal status, and the same responsibilities regarding marriage, divorce, parental duties, home maintenance, and employment. No information was available on whether the government enforced the law effectively.
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race. Nevertheless, Afro-Cubans often suffered racial discrimination. Afro-Cubans reported employment discrimination, particularly for positions of prominence within the tourism industry, media, and government. Employment advertisements were allowed to be openly sexist and racist. Police violence intensified during the year, disproportionately targeting Afro-Cubans during enforcement of laws requiring mask-wearing in public and against informal commercial activity. The economic crisis disproportionately affected Afro-Cubans, as seen in the scarce distribution of food and continuous water shortages affecting Havana’s Afro-Cuban neighborhoods. Afro-Cubans constitute the majority of some of the most impoverished Havana neighborhoods such as 10 de Octubre and Guinera, where the fiercest clashes with security officials occurred during the July protests, resulting in violent detentions and the police killing of unarmed Afro-Cuban Diubis Laurencio Tejeda. Afro-Cubans who migrated to Havana seeking economic opportunity were also disproportionally affected by restrictions on movement that resulted in deportations to rural parts of the country. Although the regime’s defenders pointed to a few high-ranking officials, Afro-Cubans remained severely underrepresented in ministerial positions and the Politburo, and they were completely absent from the highest ranks of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior – seen as the country’s true power centers.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is normally derived by birth within the country’s territory, and births were generally registered promptly (see section 2.d. for information about citizens born abroad).
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of consent for marriage is 18. Marriage for girls ages 14 or older and for boys 16 or older is permitted with parental consent. According to UNICEF’s latest figures from 2019, 29.4 percent of girls were married before 18, with higher prevalence in the provinces of Oriente and Centro, and 4.8 percent of girls were married before 15. There were no known government prevention and mitigation efforts to reduce these percentages.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Prostitution is legal for individuals ages 16 and older. There is no statutory rape law, although penalties for rape increase as the age of the victim decreases.
The law imposes seven to 15 years’ imprisonment for pornographic acts involving minors younger than 16. The punishment may increase to 20 to 30 years or death under aggravating circumstances. The law does not criminalize the possession of pornography, but it punishes the production or circulation of any kind of obscene graphic material with imprisonment of three months to one year and a fine. The offer, provision, or sale of obscene or pornographic material to minors younger than 16 is punishable by two to five years in prison.
Child trafficking across international borders is punishable by seven to 15 years’ imprisonment.
The law does not establish an age of consent, but sexual relations with children younger than 16 may be prosecuted if there is a determination of rape. In such cases the law leaves room for consideration of possible consent and the age of the other person, especially if the other person is also a minor. Penalties vary based on the age of the victim, ranging from four to 10 years’ imprisonment if the victim is age 14 or 15, up to 15 to 30 years’ imprisonment or death if the victim is younger than 12.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at .
There were between 1,000 and 1,500 members of the Jewish community. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts during the year.
Trafficking in Persons
No law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security oversees the Employment Program for Persons with Disabilities. The law recommends that public buildings, communication facilities, health services, and transportation services accommodate persons with disabilities, but these facilities and services were rarely accessible to such persons. A 2020 UNESCO report on inclusion noted the education system included programs to accommodate children with disabilities and incorporated them into nonsegregated classrooms where possible.
Many persons with disabilities who depended on the state for their basic needs struggled to survive due to inattention and a lack of resources. Some persons with disabilities who opposed the government were denied membership in official organizations for persons with disabilities, such as the National Association for the Blind. As a result, they were denied benefits and services, which included 400 minutes of telephone usage, training in the use of a white cane and in braille, and reduced fares on public transportation.
The government operated four prisons exclusively for inmates with HIV or AIDS; some inmates were serving sentences for “propagating an epidemic” in relation to their HIV status. Hospitals and clinics sometimes discriminated against patients with HIV.
Medication for patients with HIV was routinely unavailable, sometimes resulting in the patients’ deaths from neglect. Some advocates reported scarcity of medicines as the government dedicated funds to develop domestic vaccines for COVID-19.
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, citizenship, education, and health care but does not extend the same protections to transgender or intersex individuals based on gender identity or gender expression.
The government did not recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally. Several unrecognized NGOs that promoted LGBTQI+ human rights faced government harassment, not for their promotion of such topics, but for their independence from official government institutions.