UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Fourth Periodic Report, Cuba
|Publisher||UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)|
|Author||Government of Cuba|
|Publication Date||27 September 1999|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CEDAW/C/CUB/4|
|Cite as||UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Fourth Periodic Report, Cuba, 27 September 1999, CEDAW/C/CUB/4, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ae0a14.html [accessed 29 March 2015]|
1. Cuba was the first country to sign and the second to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
2. In the Cuban context the Convention is fully consistent with the principles and the legislation protecting women's rights in all areas of society.
3. Women have been direct beneficiaries of the advances made by Cuban society as a result of the State strategy of empowering the various sectors of society through a just and participatory social policy which provides equal possibilities and opportunities.
4. Cuban women are a decisive force in the process of socio-economic, political and cultural change in Cuba. Their active participation in all areas of society have made them into vigorous agents of change.
5. The Government prepared and submitted its second and third periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1992. They were presented in the Committee in January 1996. A new report, which was to have been the fourth, had been prepared in 1995 but it was classified as an updating since it preceded the 1996 presentation.
6. It is now time for Cuba to submit its fourth periodic report to the Committee, in accordance with article 18 of the Convention.
7. During its consideration of the preceding report of the Cuban Government the Committee listed the embargo among the factors or problems affecting the application of the Convention in its concluding observations.
8. It must be stressed that the main feature of the period since 1995 has been the even more stringent application of the economic, trade and financial embargo of the Government of the United States, which was imposed almost four decades ago and was reinforced by the adoption in 1996 of the Helms-Burton Act. In conjunction with the embargo, and with the same underlying ideological purpose, there has been a continuation of the economic, political and biological aggression against Cuba.
9. The People's National Assembly adopted, in strict compliance with the rules of international law, a Proclamation in which it demonstrates the criminal and genocidal nature of the embargo imposed by the Government of the United States and asserts Cuba's right to request that such acts should be punished. This document was the outcome of a proposal made by the mass movements and social organizations which bring together and represent the majority of Cuban people in the exercise of their constitutional right to take legislative initiatives.
10. In this context - exacerbated by the still severe repercussions of the downfall of socialism in Eastern Europe - Cuba has adopted a strategy of survival, resistance and development in all areas of economic, political and social life. The economy has been reorganized, with consequent changes in the structure, quantity and quality of employment; alternative approaches and solutions have been devised in order to keep the adverse effects to a minimum, make best use of financial and human resources, and preserve the advances already made.
11. The measures adopted by the country's leadership, in a process of broad consultation of and participation by the people, have already produced positive results, for the decline in gross domestic product (GDP) was halted in 1994. Sustained growth of between two and five per cent has been maintained since that year. These systematic improvements in the macroeconomy have been accompanied by an expansion of the social development programmes, which take the human being as the focus of their policies.
12. The adverse circumstances have a particular impact on women and especially on the daily life of families. In order to combat this situation, mechanisms have been created and strengthened to protect in particular the rights, status and situation of women.
13. The efforts made during this period are reflected in the ascending indicators of women's participation in the economy. In 1994 women accounted for 40.6 per cent of the labour force in the civilian State sector, but today the figure is 43.9 per cent. These changes have undoubtedly favoured the advancement of women, as well as their independence and their contribution to the country's development.
14. Women make up 66.6 per cent of all technical and professional staff at the middle and higher levels and 72 per cent of the workforce in the education sector, 67 per cent in health, 43 per cent in science, and 21 per cent in the sugar industry.
15. The number of women holding managerial posts has risen at all levels. In 1994 the figure was 28.8 per cent, but today it stands at 31.1 per cent. This demonstrates the increasing integration of women in the country's political life and in decision-making positions.
16. Women make up 27.6 per cent of deputies to Parliament following the latest general election; in the previous Parliament this figure was 22.8 per cent.
17. There is a constant increase in the numbers of women State procurators (61 per cent), women stipendiary judges (49 per cent), and judges of the People's Supreme Court (47 per cent).
18. Women constitute a large segment of Cuba's population: in 1997 the total population was 11,093,152, of which 5,539,219 or 50 per cent were women.
19. The life expectancy of Cubans is one of the highest in the region at 74.7 years. The life expectancy of women is 76.6 years, 4.6 years longer than men - the result of the priority health care which women receive and the improvement of the quality of life of the population at large.
20. The fertility rate has stood at very low levels in recent years, showing only slight increases. The total fertility rate (per 1,000 women of childbearing age) is 49.4, and overall fertility (children per woman) is 1.59. The gross reproduction rate (daughters per woman) showed a slight increase, standing at 0.77 in 1997.
21. The national agency for the advancement of women and the application of the Convention is the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), a non-governmental organization (NGO) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
22. When the United Nations, within the framework of the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985), urged Governments to create national machineries, FMC already had behind it more than 16 years of solid and sustained work, with an experience and practice which had converted it into an expert organization on women's affairs and an essential and mandatory source of reference for the Government in the design of policies, programmes and legislation targeted at women or having an impact on them.
23. FMC came into being on the initiative of women themselves, when they decided to organize to participate in the process of economic, political and social change taking place in Cuba. It has a National Committee and 14 provincial and 169 municipal committees. At the grass-roots level there are today more than 3.7 million women members in 76,000 branches.
24. FMC is self-financed from the quarterly contributions of its members and from resources accruing from its publishing house, training centre, and other projects.
25. The Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, proclaimed on 24 February 1976, as amended by the People's National Assembly (Parliament) in July 1992, states the principle of the equality of men and women.
26. By virtue of the concept of equality and the fundamental guarantees provided, this women's right is identified in the Constitution as a human right.
27. Article 41, in the chapter on equality, states: "All citizens shall enjoy equal rights and shall be subject to equal duties". This explicitly establishes the principle of equality for the drafting of all the supplementary legislation which had to be enacted to give effect to this constitutional precept.
28. The Constitution addresses the phenomenon of discrimination in article 42: "Discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, national origin or religious belief or any other discrimination which impairs human dignity is prohibited and shall be punished by law"; and it adds: "Institutions of the State shall educate everyone from the earliest age in the principle of the equality of the sexes".
29. Article 44 provides that women and men shall enjoy equal rights in economic, political, cultural, social and family matters.
Provisions of the Constitution and institutions guaranteeing the application of the Convention
30. Article 12 of the Constitution prescribes respect for the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations and the other international treaties to which Cuba is a party as one of the political, social and economic foundations of the State.
31. Cuba's national legislation, in compliance with the treaties, agreements and other international instruments to which Cuba is a party, applies this principle in all the spheres in which it must be applied.
32. The 1992 constitutional reforms expanded and strengthened this equality even further by offering women the same opportunities, rights and possibilities as men, with a view to securing their full participation in the country's development.
33. The reforms specifically reassert the institutional foundations which make it possible for women to enjoy and exercise the basic human rights. They provide to this end that the State shall establish institutions such as children's circles, part-time and full-time boarding schools, care centres for the elderly, and services to help working families to discharge their responsibilities.
34. The amended text also states: "In order to protect mothers' health and ensure healthy future generations, the State shall grant women workers paid maternity leave before and after the birth and temporary work options compatible with their maternal functions".
35. It is of supreme importance that the Constitution stipulates: "The State shall endeavour to create all the conditions to facilitate the application of the principle of equality".
36. Other chapters of the Constitution - on citizenship, status of aliens, the family, education and culture, and fundamental duties and guarantees - constitute, in conjunction with the right to equality, the soundest possible basis for supplementary legislation in favour of Cuban women.
37. Similarly, chapter XIV of the Constitution (Electoral system) embodies the right to equality in electoral matters; this right was established in legislation by the Electoral Act (Law No. 72 of 29 October 1992).
38. Political importance also attaches to article 7 of the Constitution, which states: "The socialist Cuban State recognizes and encourages the mass and social organizations which have emerged in the historical process of the struggles of our people."
39. This constitutional principle has become an important factor in Cuba's participatory democracy. These organizations, in which women have a leading role and place, promote and carry out various activities and duties of benefit to the people and to social and political development.
40. The mass and social organizations, although not governmental agencies, do have independent juridical personality and also have the right to propose legislative initiatives. One such organization is the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC).
41. The supreme authority in Cuba - the People's National Assembly - has a Standing Committee for Children, Young People and Equal Rights for Women. This Committee performs valuable functions in the areas of counselling, evaluation, research, study, monitoring, etc., which are designed to assist and protect persons and the legal and moral property and assets held in their name.
42. This Committee also has the right to propose legislative initiatives and it has been the channel for the study and tabling of a number of laws and other legislation, as well as for the adoption of measures to ensure their effectiveness.
Legislation on women's right to equality and against discrimination
43. Pursuant to these principles proclaimed in the Constitution, many laws and other pieces of legislation have been enacted to guarantee the basic human rights for the two sexes and especially for women, such as the right to life, reproductive, sexual and family planning rights, and the rights to health, education, social security and assistance, housing, employment, and equal pay for equal work of the same value, the right of access, depending on merit and competence, to all positions of State and posts in the civil service, the right to produce goods and provide services, and the right to development, as well as the right to vote, elect and be elected, etc.
44. Article 295 of the Criminal Code (Law No. 62 of 29 December 1987, as amended) characterizes as an offence any violation of the right to equality and any discrimination on whatever grounds committed by an individual, organization or enterprise.
45. It is extremely important that this same article provides that "any person who disseminates ideas based on racial superiority or racial hatred or who commits or encourages the commission of offences against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin shall be punished".
46. The Criminal Code provides severe penalties for crimes of violence, especially those described as "crimes against life and physical integrity" or "crimes against the orderly conduct of sexual relations or against the family, children or young people".
47. Another recently adopted measure is Law No. 87 of 16 February 1999, amending the Criminal Code; it introduces as an aggravating circumstance in crimes of violence "the person of the spouse" and the notion of kinship between the perpetrator and the victim; in addition to specifying "up to the fourth degree of consanguinity", it adds "up to the second degree of affinity".
48. As an additional means of protecting women, children and adolescents, this Law includes a new article on the sale and traffic in children. Although Cuba has no history of such practices, it was decided to add provisions on the commission of this aberrant crime because it is in an upward trend throughout the world. Cuban legislation was thus brought into line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the conventions on international adoption.
49. Decree-Law No. 175 of 17 July 1997 was enacted in order to provide greater protection for women and for society at large by introducing in the Criminal Code the concepts of procurement and trafficking in persons.
50. This legislation characterizes as crimes certain acts associated with prostitution and it extends the sanctions to cover a number of antisocial elements or persons benefiting from prostitution or any other form of trafficking in persons, which are understood to mean for these purposes "any action encouraging or exploiting sexual relations for profit".
51. The scope of this crime was also extended to any persons who "promote, organize or incite a woman's entry into or departure from the country for the purposes of prostitution or trafficking in sex".
52. This kind of crime is regarded as aggravated if its commission involves "persons who perform duties related in any way to the protection of public health, maintenance of public order, education, tourism, guidance of young people, or the campaign against prostitution or other forms of trafficking in persons".
53. The crime is also regarded as aggravated "if its commission is accompanied by threats, blackmail, coercion or abuse of authority, unless the presence of one of these circumstances constitutes a more serious crime".
54. Where employment is concerned, working women enjoy equality of rights in the various spheres in which labour regulations exist. They also enjoy special rights, which cannot be regarded as discriminatory, such as those established in the Working Women's Maternity Act (Law No. 1263 of 14 January 1974), the Health and Safety at Work Act (Law No. 13 of 18 December 1977) and the Labour Code (Law No. 48 of 28 December 1984), as well as Law No. 61 of 29 December 1987 and Resolution No. 10 of 1991, which deal with cash benefits.
55. Another measure providing support for working women was the Law which created the children's circles in 1961 as an educational and psycho-pedagogical institution.
56. The women's employment committees of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, which were created by Resolution No. 605 of 9 January 1981, offer an additional means of protecting women in their access to employment; this topic is discussed below.
57. Women are also treated on an equal footing with men in civil, family and agrarian law; this legislation includes provisions and programmes designed to accelerate de facto equality between men and women.
Legal guarantees of women's rights
58. Cuban legislation contains various provisions addressing and guaranteeing the exercise of women's rights and women's full equality, in accordance with the Constitution.
59. The period covered by the present report saw the promulgation of various rules of this kind. The State Procurator's Act (Law No. 83 of 11 July 1997) reinforced the machinery for monitoring compliance with the law by including in its title III a chapter III on protection of the rights of citizens.
60. These provisions are an important tool available to the State to guard against violations of civil rights, including women's rights.
61. This kind of institutional control by the State Procurator's Office was established in 1993 and has been improved by the promulgation of the new Act; it now provides a system for dealing with people's complaints and petitions on a gender basis.
62. It is clear that Cuba's legislation is still being improved in this way. The evaluation of the information about complaints and petitions, in conjunction with the consultation of the people, is an extremely valuable factor in the maintenance of the effectiveness of the legal rules.
63. The Constitution laid the foundations for this kind of protection, for it states in article 63: "Every citizen has the right to lodge complaints and petitions with the authorities and to receive appropriate attention or replies within a proper time limit, in accordance with the law."
64. The legislation on the organization of the Central Administration of the State (Law No. 1321 of 30 November 1976) was enacted for this same purpose; it includes amongst the common functions and powers of State agencies "to provide appropriate attention and responses within a time limit of 60 days with respect to the complaints and petitions lodged by citizens, to endeavour to find suitable solutions to the issues raised therein, and to take action to eliminate the reported deficiencies". This same article is reproduced in Decree-Law No. 67 of 19 April 1983, which repealed the previous legislation.
Procedural, civil, administrative and labour guarantees
65. The legal protection of women before the courts of justice and the competent administrative bodies is based on the fundamental principle of the equality of the parties in civil, criminal, administrative and labour proceedings, as provided for in the Civil, Administrative and Labour Procedure Act (Law No. 7 of August 1977) and the Criminal Procedure Act (Law No. 5 of 13 August 1977).
66. Decree-Law No. 176 of 15 August 1999, on the system of labour justice, ratified the establishment of the basic labour justice organs and the remedies available in the People's Courts of Justice, where proceedings are also based on the equality of the parties.
National Action Plan of the Republic of Cuba for Follow-up of the Fourth World Conference on Women
67. At the Fourth World Conference on Women and its NGO Forum in Beijing in September 1995 the Cuban Government entered into a commitment to attend to the implementation of the Platform of Action adopted in Beijing.
68. In order to ensure the implementation of the Platform, a seminar entitled "The Cuban women of Beijing in 2000" was held in Havana from 3 to 5 July 1996 on the proposal of FMC; it was attended by ministers, heads or representatives of institutions, experts and NGOs. A total attendance of more than 200 persons examined Cuba's implementation of the Nairobi Strategies (1985), the Regional Plan of Action adopted at Mar del Plata (1994), and the Beijing Platform of Action (1995).
69. The national seminar met in plenary and in committees, which were assigned thematic topics of the rights of Cuban women: economic, cultural and social, civil and political, reproductive and sexual. Each committee explored its topic in detail in subcommittees set up for that purpose.
70. The following topics were taken up in the area of economic, cultural and social rights: Cuba's employment strategy, priority economic programmes and the environment, grass-roots programmes on education and health for women, and grass-roots preventive social work.
71. The discussion of civil and political rights focused on topics connected with the communications media: image and presence of women on radio and television, in the press and the cinema, in advertising and in the foreign press. The meetings also discussed other topics connected with women's access to political and administrative decision-making positions and their training for promotion. The question of legislation was also taken up: the progress made and the need for improvement in the labour, civil, criminal, family, international, claims and other areas.
72. The topic of reproductive and sexual rights was considered jointly with the topic of research and statistics on women.
73. Each of the subcommittees produced a diagnosis of the achievements and progress made, identified the existing obstacles and limits to practical implementation, and drafted a large number of recommendations to be taken into account by the Government as priorities in its implementation of the Beijing commitments.
74. The National Plan of Action for Follow-up of the Fourth World Conference on Women entered into force by a decision of the Council of State on 7 April 1997.
75. In its preambular part this decision states: "This Plan of Action, which summarizes the feelings and the political will of the State of the Republic of Cuba, is to constitute the cornerstone of the development of policies for women and to provide continuity in the advancement and development of gender equality in our country."
76. A second seminar was held on 9 and 10 April 1999; it examined and discussed exhaustively and in detail the documents produced by various bodies in accordance with the provisions of the Plan of Action.
77. This seminar was attended by ministers, heads of agencies, institutions, NGOs and other organizations, experts, the FMC secretariat and leadership, and representatives of other social institutions to which invitations had been sent.
78. The seminar noted advances in the implementation of the Plan and a greater awareness of its importance. Specific reports were produced on the elimination of defects and proposal of measures to continue the work under the agreements adopted.
79. The National Plan of Action for Follow-up of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which has the force of law, has played a fundamental role in the continuation of this process. Its implementation is the responsibility of the Cuban State, and its provisions explicitly involve the governmental agencies and entities responsible for the Plan and its execution. FMC and other political, mass and social organizations also participate, contributing their opinions and experience.
80. The Plan contains actions broken down for the following topics:
- Women and employment
- Women and the communications media
- Grass-roots work. Education, health and social work
- Access to higher levels of management
- Research and statistics
- Reproductive and sexual rights
81. The two framework seminars, the first held for promotional purposes and the second for evaluation, proved fruitful exercises; they were organized by FMC and willingly taken up and supported by the Government as an expression of the historical collaboration between the institutions of the State and the mass and social organizations of civil society.
82. A particular tribute is due in this connection to FMC, which for more than 39 years has been playing an active and effective role in improving the situation of Cuban women, securing their advancement and defending their human rights.
83. FMC collaborates in the pursuit of many of its objectives with the agencies of the Central Administration of the State, especially in mass education and health programmes and in programmes on recruitment and promotion and on education in new values and family relations.
84. Part of this collaboration consists of the work done by FMC with governmental institutions for purposes of information and in processing and checking their responses to complaints, petitions and opinions voiced or lodged by women at FMC offices.
85. Cuban women also participate in other NGOs, professional associations and mass organizations, including the gender and journalism circle of the Union of Cuban Journalists, the Organization of Women Scientists of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, the departments of women's affairs in higher education institutions, the Grand Council of the Order of the Hijas de la Acacia, and the Rebekah Assembly of Cuba, amongst many others.
86. Furthermore, at the end of 1998 women accounted for 43.5 per cent of members of trade unions, an increase of 5.1 per cent over 1996. The Cuban Trade-Union Federation and its member unions have a Women's Section to deal with problems of women workers.
87. According to the 1998 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Cuba occupies twenty-fifth place on the Gender Empowerment Measure, a higher position than even some developed countries. This reflects the work done by the Government to secure equal opportunities for women so that they can participate in the country's economic and political life.
88. For years Cuba has been establishing and operating governmental programmes and measures in favour of Cuban women in order to achieve their full development and advancement, as described in this report. This section mentions only, by way of example, the new measures introduced for this purpose during the period under review.
89. These measures include the creation of the National Group for Prevention and Treatment of Violence in the Family, the Elderly Care Programme, and the women's committees of the Ministry of Agriculture, which analyse and evaluate in their administrative units the whole situation of women workers in the agricultural sector. Alternative grass-roots education courses for women are offered under the auspices of the Ministry of Education.
90. A process of legislative reform has also been undertaken with a view to extending the legal protection of women, a topic mentioned under article 2.
91. The Family Code, promulgated on 14 February 1975, is still being amended to incorporate improvements in the light of the experience obtained during the 24 years since it entered into force.
92. The provisions of this legal instrument, which are consistent with the prescriptions of the Constitution, proved to be a radical turning point for the better in family law in Cuba; the Code has fulfilled an important educational function in various areas of social and family life through its provision that "Marriage shall be constituted on the basis of the equality of rights and duties of the spouses."
93. Another measure adopted by the Government, which demonstrates its concern to ensure the full development and advancement of women, was the invitation to visit Cuba issued in 1998 to Mrs. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women.
94. As stated earlier, the programmes and plans adopted and executed by the Government since the triumph of the Revolution created equal opportunities and possibilities for the active integration of all men and all women in the country's economic, political and social life.
95. The results obtained in the advancement and integration of women over these past 40 years are manifest in the participation indicators showing the position and status of Cuban women in today's society. Accordingly, although outmoded stereotypes and cultural patterns persist, together with other objective circumstances which impede the advancement of women, there are few areas of life in which (temporary) affirmative-action measures are still needed today to achieve equality between men and women.
96. This affirmative action, which is not regarded as discriminatory, includes measures for the protection of maternity. As already pointed out, Cuba's fertility and birth rates have been declining in a direct and unbroken line to levels similar to those of developed countries. Nevertheless, the legislation protecting maternity has been expanded.
97. The Working Women's Maternity Act adopted on 14 January 1974 accords working mothers 12 weeks of fully paid antenatal and postnatal leave. In the current circumstances - since July 1991 - a new option has been added for women who cannot return to work at the end of their paid postnatal leave. They may remain on leave for six months after the birth of their child and receive 60 per cent of their pay. This provision also includes the right to a further six months' leave without pay. In both cases the women retain their job entitlement.
98. The 1980s saw the formal establishment of the National Commission for Women's Employment, chaired by the Minister of Labour and Social Security and made up of representatives of the Cuban Trade-Union Federation and FMC. Its operational principles are the need to give priority to women in employment, compliance with non-discriminatory employment rules and encouragement of non-discriminatory attitudes, and creation of training facilities to guarantee women's access to jobs.
99. In 1996 the women's employment committees were revitalized, and their aims and working procedures were adapted to the new economic conditions and employment situation in the country and in each of its territories.
100. New measures have been introduced to ensure priority access to employment for middle-level, technical and professional staff. The numbers of unemployed skilled workers have thus been reduced substantially in recent years, and priority has been given to women. Between 1996 and 1998, 11,462 women were found jobs.
101. The comprehensive strategy for the incorporation of Cuban women in all areas of the life of society has resulted in increasing and systematic political participation and access for women to managerial posts at the higher decision-making levels: in education, general and specialized health services, and employment. Accordingly, while in 1994 women accounted for 28.2 per cent of all persons holding political and administrative managerial posts, today they constitute 31.1 per cent.
102. However, the numbers and status of women in the workforce at large and amongst technical, professional and scientific and specialized personnel show without any doubt that the proportion of women holding managerial posts is still insufficient and does not measure up to their real potential and possibilities.
103. Given these circumstances, measures have been introduced to recognize the female presence achieved so far, promote the social recognition and image of women managers, and create new thinking, attitudes, feelings and values with respect to women managers.
104. An intensive publicity campaign was carried out during the latest general elections, giving emphasis to the possibility of nominating and electing women to the organs of people's power, in accordance with Cuba's legislation. A positive outcome and the effectiveness of this strategy were manifested in the increased numbers of women at all levels - municipal, provincial and national. In Parliament, for example, the female presence increased by 4.8 per cent over the previous legislature.
105. It was obvious in the early days of institution-building in Cuba, including the establishment of the People's National Assembly and its organs, that matters of information and policy-making were fundamentally in the hands of men.
106. The Government does not have any temporary measures to ensure women's access to managerial posts, but rather a sustained political strategy designed to maintain and expand the space won by women. Measures and actions have been carried out at every stage of the electoral process, including grass-roots educational work to bring home the need for women delegates and deputies and to highlight their work as such.
107. Television spots and radio programmes have been broadcast, and work is continuing on the evaluation of the evolution of women's participation in every electoral process; this variable is incorporated in the relevant studies and research.
108. As has been repeatedly stated, in Cuba the principles of equality and non-discrimination are incorporated in all laws, policies and educational work. These years of effort have produced big changes - although still not sufficient ones - in the way people think about women and men.
109. Today women play an important role in the country's economic, political and social life, on the basis of equal possibilities and opportunities with men, and already in many places couples share family duties and rights.
110. The evolution, modification and enhancement of the subjective factor - people's awareness, which determines patterns of behaviour and socio-cultural stereotypes - is a slower process than the process of human reality and practice. As a result, there are still manifestations of de facto discrimination in Cuban society, and measures for the gradual elimination of such discrimination are still required.
Concrete measures for the elimination of stereotypes
111. Women are being integrated at all levels of the education system (quantitatively and qualitatively). They are offered equal cultural opportunities, as well as opportunities to take action themselves to alter stereotypes.
112. New patterns and approaches are being introduced in curricula and study plans in the education system, together with mixed education and non-sexist approaches to the distribution of tasks.
113. Parents' schools have existed for years in primary, secondary and higher secondary education, offering an opportunity for discussion of training topics with a view inter alia to avoiding contradictions between the messages put out by school and family or between "sexist" and "non-sexist" models.
114. The Ministry of Education is working in conjunction with mass grass-roots organizations, in particular with FMC, on a programme to link home, community and school, in which the Parents for Education movement is also involved; this movement is being created by FMC to carry out participatory educational work with children, adolescents and young people.
115. The Ministry has been working together with FMC ever since the 1960s to achieve a closer linkage between school, family and the community.
116. Following their revision, school textbooks now project an image of women in general and specifically of Cuban women which is more consistent with the policies for women which are being carried out in Cuba.
117. The content of curricula is being revised at all levels of education in order to depict women as pro-active agents who go out to work and are involved in the arts, the sciences, the defence of the country, and the exercise of social equality. These changes are the result of earlier reviews carried out by the relevant agencies and by FMC.
118. Games and other activities have been introduced and developed in the children's circles, where the education programme allows both girls and boys to play roles traditionally assigned to the other sex.
119. In coordination with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), all Cuban communities have been carrying out the "For Life" programme for the development of under-fives who do not attend a children's circle; this programme also involves their families. It is accompanied by widespread publicity in the broadcast media designed to consolidate the equality and rights of children.
120. Open meetings have been held under the auspices of the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the mass organizations to debate draft legislation and other related topics; these meetings formulate and amplify provisions on women and family relations.
121. A series of meetings for women workers has been organized by ministries in coordination with FMC in various branches of the economy; the main aims are to contribute to the elimination of stereotypes and to work for the general advancement of women in the branch in question.
122. The Ministry of Public Health and FMC have been working together on the Parental Awareness Programme, which operates throughout the country and is designed to prepare couples for pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period and to care for their newborn children.
123. Encouragement and support is being given to the activities carried out by governmental institutions and NGOs in the community, in labour collectives and with professional groups for discussion of topics connected with the role of women in society, the non-reproduction of traditional roles, the improvement of self-esteem, and the need for a democratic and fair distribution of household tasks.
124. There is a strict system of monitoring of the messages conveyed by the mass communications media about gender roles, as well as the use of media spots on equality in the household designed to encourage collaboration, sharing of the care of children, and equal education for girls and boys. There are special programmes of public participation, interviews, etc., on these topics. A weekly television programme has been initiated, at peak viewing hours, for discussion of these matters.
125. A special contribution has been made over these past five years by the women's affairs departments ("Women and Development" and "Women and the Family") in the country's higher education institutes; at the initiative of and in conjunction with FMC, they teach courses and provide technical and methodological advice on the topics of gender equality, with special emphasis on the need to eliminate stereotypes.
126. Every municipality has an FMC women and family and counselling centre; in conjunction with the women's affairs departments, these centres provide individual and collective services for women, families and the community on the basis of diagnoses of their interests and needs.
127. The courses run by the centres are extremely valuable, especially as they include the topic of equality regardless of the subject of the course.
128. As part of the continuing improvement of the National Education System, it was felt necessary to include a variety of topics connected with sex - the biological aspects as well as the ethical and social ones - from the earliest grades, in the lessons on nature and the human body.
129. The National Working Group on Sex Education, created in 1977, became in 1989 the National Sex Education Centre (CENESEX). The Centre includes representatives of the Ministries of Public Health and Education, youth organizations, and FMC. It also maintains close working links with the Ministries of Culture, Higher Education, etc.
130. Considerable work has been done by the Standing Committee of the People's National Assembly for Children, Young People and Equal Rights for Women; it makes proposals for new legislation and amendment of existing legislation.
131. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment runs a joint programme with the Ministry of Education and FMC; the basic approach is to do detailed work on the topic of the family and equality with a view to producing more materials for use in the implementation, continuation and maintenance of activities which help to strengthen the family as the basic institution of Cuban society.
132. A Family Studies Group was established; it is headed by FMC and enjoys the participation of the Youth Centre, CENESEX, the Commission for Social Welfare and Prevention, the Centre for Psycho-Sociological Research of the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Justice, the University of Havana, the Faculty of Psychology, and the Ministry of Education.
133. Studies on women are part of the national science policy. All the bodies dealing with women's policies carry out studies to evaluate the level of development of the concepts and practices of equality. FMC has its Centre for Women's Studies, which carries out and promotes studies on this topic and other general topics from a gender standpoint.
134. There has been a constant and systematic effort to eradicate stereotypes and cultural, ideological and psychological barriers not only in society but also within the family, where it is also necessary to rethink roles. One priority objective of the educational activities is to create an awareness in every member of the family of the need to share household tasks. The fundamental principle is that full equality can be achieved only when it embraces the family environment.
135. Before 1959 prostitution in Cuba enjoyed the encouragement and tolerance of each successive Government of the pseudo-republic, even though they had signed international conventions on the suppression of the traffic in women and exploitation of the prostitution of others. A word must be said about the motives of the unfortunate women who worked as prostitutes in those times: for the overwhelming majority of them prostitution was the only means of survival in a country with high levels of illiteracy, malnutrition and unemployment, in which 70 per cent of the few women regarded as having jobs worked in domestic service.
136. Following the triumph of the Revolution, the economic and social conditions which engendered and sustained prostitution were eliminated, and the foundations were laid for the rapid re-education and social rehabilitation of these women. This work was carried out by the Government and FMC between 1960 and 1965. Schools and vocational training centres were opened for the women, enabling them to integrate themselves in the working life of the country.
137. Prostitution was thus eliminated in Cuba as an institutionalized social phenomenon.
138. Prostitution has regrettably re-emerged in the 1990s, under different circumstances, with different motivations and in new forms. This new type of prostitution is associated basically with the rapid development of foreign tourism in several tourism areas at the same time.
139. The phenomenon of prostitution in Cuba, although on a small social scale and concentrated mainly in the tourist resorts, has claimed the full attention of the Government and non-governmental institutions in a serious endeavour to attack its causes, evaluate means of eradicating it, and improve procedures in the common task of confronting and fighting it.
140. Today's prostitution - it too occurring in a period of serious economic difficulties - involves people with poorly developed ethical and moral values and with an intense interest in the acquisition of material goods and services, which today can be bought only with freely convertible currency.
141. Some of the reasons for the emergence of this new type of prostitution are the rapid and increasing influx of tourists into Cuba, with the risks which that implies, the country's scant experience of dealing with this phenomenon, and the serious material difficulties and shortages, combined with the existence of families whose consciences and values have not developed with the desired solidity or in step with the economic, political and social changes in Cuba and which have transmitted this outlook to their children.
142. Most of the new prostitutes are young women with a high standard of education, a benefit enjoyed by most Cubans, and in good health, as is the rule in Cuba; but since their fundamental rights and needs are guaranteed, once they decide to become prostitutes it is more difficult to re-educate them.
143. The Government's policy is to take action to eliminate prostitution; it is being confronted and fought not by coercive means - which it is realized will not provide a proper solution to the problem - but through a combination of counselling and persuasion tailored to different groups of women and to each individual.
144. This determined effort first to prevent and then to eliminate prostitution takes into account the fact that it involves not only prostitutes but also procurers and clients.
145. In the context of Cuban society's endeavour to eradicate prostitution, attention may be drawn to the systematic work of:
1. The Commission for Social Welfare and Prevention, which was established in 1986 and is made up of institutions of the Cuban State (Ministries of Education, Health, Labour, Internal Order, etc.) and of political and mass organizations. It is represented at the central, provincial and municipal levels;
2. FMC, which does systematic work with every identified prostitute, something which is possible in a society with Cuba's political and social structure and thanks to FMC's own organizational structure, which covers every district, every community and every settlement:
(a) The FMC activities, carried out by its own grass-roots leaders and social workers and by voluntary activists, is not limited to the prostitutes themselves but is extended to their families and to the social environment in which they live and develop, so that it is possible to bring many positive influences to bear on them;
(b) As a result of this work, some of the women abandon prostitution and even take up jobs or become students on regular or alternative courses;
(c) FMC has also been training managers and other workers in the tourism sector by means of discussion workshops, as well as running courses for their own managers and activists and for the specialists in various disciplines who make up the teams in the FMC women and family counselling centres;
(d) FMC has fostered a debate on the topic of prostitution and the formation of values, using videos and other teaching materials and discussion groups, which are open not only to group participants but also to the other members of their families;
(e) FMC produces a socio-economic profile of each woman prostitute as the basis for its individualized work with her;
(f) Research has been carried out into the image of women in the illustrated advertising directed at foreign tourists, which frequently depicts women as sex objects; this research has provided scientific grounds for the move to eliminate this kind of advertising;
(g) A study of Cuba's legislation produced solid arguments for including procurement and trafficking in women in the Criminal Code;
(h) This topic has also been dealt with in the media, mainly on the radio; this has facilitated the correct treatment of the problem.
3. The National Sex Education Centre, which has done important work by providing scientifically sound advice about the implications and risks of prostitution and other associated phenomena;
4. The training and counselling of managerial, administrative and service staff in tourist resorts so that they can look out for and prevent prostitution.
146. In addition, tourism promotion and advertising companies and agencies are prohibited from encouraging or permitting in their advertising any association of tourism with the use of women as sex objects.
147. Despite all the warnings, counselling and persuasion directed at prostitutes, some of them become involved in other activities often associated with prostitution, which do require action and sanction by the courts: robbery, extortion, and drug trafficking, as well as conduct regarded as antisocial because it undermines discipline, the established social order, and the accepted rules of coexistence in society. Several different types of measures may be taken in this connection, depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Violence against women
148. The National Group for Prevention and Treatment of Violence in the Family was established in September 1997; it is particularly concerned with violence against women.
149. The Group is coordinated by FMC and draws its membership from the Ministries of Education, Health, Interior and Justice, the State Procurator's Office, the Institute of Forensic Medicine, the National Sex Education Centre, the University of Havana, the People's Supreme Court, and the Radio and Television Institute.
150. Its work is becoming more comprehensive and effective in the multisectoral and multidisciplinary measures required for the prevention and treatment of this problem, and it makes proposals to other agents of society when necessary.
151. In addition, the Groups's composition enables it to channel its work through the agencies and activities of each member organ and organization to the persons representing them in the community, such as teachers, doctors, police officers, judges, and State procurators.
152. The results of the Group's work include:
(a) Provision of training for the boards of management of the National Revolutionary Police, the Ministries of Public Health and Justice, the State Procurator's Office, and the Radio and Television Institute concerning the problems of family violence viewed from a gender perspective;
(b) Production of three educational kits on violence against women to be discussed in the more than 76,000 local FMC branches, with emphasis on the couple, violence against children, and legislation to protect women and the family against this kind of violence;
(c) Formulation of a training programme for officials working on social policies at the highest decision-making level; this programme has been introduced in the bodies mentioned above, and another programme for community workers and specialists is being prepared;
(d) Analysis of the content of judicial proceedings concerning selected offences such as bodily injury, homicide, murder and rape;
(e) Study of Cuban legislation and comparative analysis of the experience of other countries in the area;
(f) This study supplied the necessary justification for including in the Criminal Code as an aggravating circumstance kinship between the attacker and the victim up to the fourth degree of consanguinity and the second degree of affinity; this addition has already been approved by Parliament;
(g) Treatment and counselling at the FMC women and family counselling centres;
(h) Compilation and organization of social research materials.
153. The research work of this Group coordinated by FMC resulted in:
- The compilation and analysis of various materials and personal histories connected with the topic of violence in the family;
- An analysis of the content of judicial proceedings concerning selected offences;
- A study of Cuban legislation and an ongoing comparative analysis of the experience of other countries in the area;
- The production of three systems of qualitative and quantitative indicators for the analysis of:
The content of judicial proceedings;
Cases brought to the women and family counselling centres;
Certain health services.
154. In addition to this work there are the studies on this topic carried out in the past by FMC and other organs, institutions and organizations.
155. The specific aspects taken up most frequently in the research into violence in the family have been violence against minors and between spouses. In the first case, the failure of parents to provide food for their children is recognized as a serious problem to which no solution has so far been found. In the second case, the serious problem is violence based on gender discrimination.
156. The studies have produced important proposals, including legislative ones, for securing progress in the solution of this problem.
157. The work of organizing research materials on family violence done by the Centre for Women's Studies included a review and compilation of 20 studies and other pieces of research on violence against women produced mainly between 1994 and 1998, although some of them go back to 1991.
158. Most of the authors were experts from the Institute of Forensic Medicine and the FMC head office, the State Procurator's Office, and the Faculty of Medical and Polyclinical Sciences of the Ministry of Public Health.
159. These studies deal as a matter of priority with violence as a general problem and they give detailed attention to violence in the family, including violence between spouses.
160. The identified causes of this violence include jealousy, lack of respect for the possessions of others, emotional conflicts and difficulties of communication in the couple and the family, low self-esteem on the part of women, unwanted children, rejection of children and other disabled members of the family, parental irresponsibility and insufficient education in the performance of family roles, machismo, alcoholism, economic problems, overcrowding and promiscuity, low cultural standards, frustration, insufficient training in accepting others with problems, mental disturbances, and ideological, political and religious conflicts.
161. According to the same sources, most of the victims are married women or women living with a partner, aged between 16 and 50 and with secondary education; some do not work (housewives) and others are wage-earners. Technical and managerial staff are found among the victims. Most of the aggressors are young men with education ranging from below sixth grade up to ninth grade, although some of them have higher levels of education, including university.
162. It was found that few of the women report incidents of ill-treatment to the authorities; some of them are dependent on their husband for various reasons, so that they keep quiet about his violent behaviour.
163. The usual justification given for this ill-treatment is that it is an expression of the gender role imposed by the patriarchal family and the macho stereotype. Even when women reported ill-treatment it did not end, and in some cases the acts of violence increased after the report.
164. FMC is another source of information about the characteristics of violence in the family in Cuba. During 1998 its public care offices (185 throughout the country) were visited by a total of 25,239 persons seeking help and counselling, and submitting complaints and requests. Of this total, only 133 (1.9 per cent) were reporting cases of violence.
165. An analysis of these cases of violence indicated the following basic features:
(a) Violence by men against women: 75 cases (56.4 per cent);
(b) Violence by women against men: 6 cases (4.5 per cent);
(c) Violence by mothers against children: 35 cases (26.3 per cent);
(d) Violence by fathers against children: 14 cases (10.5 per cent).
166. From 5 to 13 June 1999 the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on Violence against Women visited Cuba at the invitation of the Government.
167. As part of her programme she met the heads of eight State agencies and of mass and social organizations. She went to three provinces, including the country's capital, and visited hospitals, children's homes, women's prisons, and rehabilitation centres.
168. She had many interviews with academics, researchers, trade-union leaders, and FMC officials and activists, as well as with rehabilitated prostitutes and women victims of violence who had attended the treatment programmes.
169. On balance the visit was a positive one. It gave the Special Rapporteur the opportunity of a frank and open dialogue about Cuba's achievements, constraints, and approaches in the prevention and treatment of violence, as well as providing detailed information about other experiments, results and difficulties.
170. The Constitution of the Republic and the Electoral Act establish that every Cuban citizen over the age of 16, irrespective of sex, race or religious belief, has the right to vote and to be elected in public elections.
171. Notices of elections call upon citizens to elect the best candidates without any kind of discrimination. No female or male candidate has to have economic resources or find someone to finance the election campaign to promote his or her candidacy.
172. According to Cuba's electoral law, the constituencies are established on the basis of the number of residents. The constituencies hold meetings at which the electors freely propose and nominate from two to eight candidates selected on the basis of their merit and the qualities which will enable them to represent their constituents at levels up to the highest organ of the State.
173. Following the nominations, all the country's constituencies elect their representatives by direct and secret vote on the same day. In the event of a tie or if no candidate obtains at least 50 per cent of the valid votes, a second round of voting is held.
174. It must be pointed out that, although women have all these legal rights and account for 50 per cent of voters, the nomination and election of women is still influenced by subjective factors connected with beliefs, prejudices and cultural patterns inherited from a classist and sexist society which assigned the world of work and public authority to men and restricted women to the home, the family and domestic work.
175. A general election was called in 1997. Although voting is free and voluntary in Cuba, 98.2 per cent of voters took part in the election and elected by direct and secret ballot their representatives to the municipal assemblies for every constituency and to the provincial assemblies, as well as deputies to the National Assembly.
176. In this election women increased their level of participation in comparison with the general election of 1993 and the partial election in 1995.
177. There are 2,595 women delegates to the municipal assemblies; this represents 17.9 per cent of the total and an increase of 786 and 388 over 1995 and 1997 respectively. Although this indicator has been rising steadily, it is still very low.
178. There are 341 women delegates to the provincial assemblies, representing 28.6 per cent of the total and an increase of 57 (4.7 per cent) over 1993.
179. There are 166 women deputies to the National Assembly, 27.6 per cent of the total. This represents an increase of 32 (4.2 per cent). According to this indicator, Cuba is located amongst the leading countries in the world in terms of women's participation in Parliament.
180. The five women members of the present Council of State constitute 16 per cent of the total membership, the same proportion as in the previous legislature.
181. Women take an active part in the standing working committees in the organs of people's power, from the municipalities up to the National Assembly.
182. Three committees in the National Assembly are headed by women: Welfare of Young People and Children and Equal Rights for Women; Welfare Services; and Education, Culture and Science and Technology.
183. Despite the difficult economic conditions confronting Cuba, a great effort has been made during this five-year period to increase the presence and participation of women in the organs of municipal, provincial and national Government. In addition, during this period a woman was appointed for the first time as president of a provincial assembly and of its Administrative Council (a governmental organ).
184. During the election process FMC - with its national machinery - promoted several initiatives which produced positive results. In the preparation and implementation of these initiatives it had the full support and active collaboration of the organs of people's power at every level:
- The publication of "Elect them among the best", which was discussed at meetings of the more than 76,000 local FMC branches;
- The active participation of FMC officials in the national, provincial and municipal nominations committees, including a positive role played in encouraging distinguished women to stand for election to the provincial and national assemblies, in accordance with the powers of these committees;
- Meetings attended by women delegates and deputies, at which the results of their work were recognized and topics connected with gender, equality, self-esteem and leadership were discussed;
- Joint research carried out at the national level by FMC and the People's National Assembly under the heading "Women and Power"; the findings provided important materials for the evaluation and analysis of this topic.
185. Democracy in Cuba is a practice truly based on the direct participation of the people in the decisions of the Government and in the legislative process. Women, like the rest of the people, participate in the formulation of governmental policies.
186. The establishment of essential preconditions such as the guarantee of their legal equality, their cultural, technical and vocational training, their incorporation in socially useful work, the promotion of their participation in politics, and the fundamental transformation of their social situation encourage and facilitate the participation of Cuban women in the country's political life.
187. The advancement of women is periodically evaluated in order to identify the achievements and the persisting difficulties and to continue to address the objective and subjective factors impeding a greater female presence in senior decision-making posts.
188. The Decree-Law on the promotion, posting and qualifications of State employees addresses the need to continue the effort for the education, training and retraining of women and their promotion to senior posts.
189. This policy has resulted in a stronger female presence on the reserve lists at the various levels of the State administration, but men still predominate. However, there are many capable women who have the necessary experience and qualities to hold senior posts.
190. Efforts have been made to ensure that the organs of the Central Administration of the State and other institutions formulate their strategies with an eye to facilitating women's full access to managerial posts:
- Personnel committees operate at all levels from the national to the municipal as a governmental mechanism; they take an individualized approach to questions of the promotion of women to senior posts;
- The ministries and their research centres and the institutes of higher education carry out research and hold events of various kinds, at which this topic is also analysed. The findings constitute a fundamental input in the work of the personnel committees and the training system.
191. This is one of the objectives of the women's employment committees, which have produced evaluations of the representation of women, of the possibility of increasing their presence on the reserve lists at all levels, and the obstacles to their progress.
192. In general terms, the period 1996-1998 saw progress in the promotion of women to senior posts in the civilian State sector. Women managers represented 30.1 per cent of the country's total in 1996 and 31.1 per cent in 1998. The numerical increase has been in excess of 4,000.
193. At present there are three women ministers, heading the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, the Ministry of Internal Trade, and the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration. There are also 12 women vice-ministers, two of them first vice-ministers.
194. Women have a significant presence in the judicial system. Sixty-five per cent of State procurators are women, a big increase over the 1996 figure of 61.2 per cent; and 49 per cent of the senior staff are women, as against 55.4 and 34.6 per cent in 1996 and 1993 respectively. In the courts, 49 per cent of stipendiary judges are women, an increase of 5.2 per cent over 1993. In the Ministry of Justice, 36.1 per cent of senior staff are women and nine of the 14 provincial directors are women.
195. The Ministry of Education has 5,223 women (51.2 per cent of the total) in senior posts: there are 14 women vice-ministers, directors or heads of department; four women (26.6 per cent) are rectors of institutes of higher education; 14 women are vice-rectors and 15 are deacons. There are three women directors at the provincial level and 38 in the municipalities, accounting for 21 and 55 per cent of the total respectively.
196. The Ministry of Higher Education has the following proportions of women holding senior posts: Central Office, 24 per cent; heads of teaching departments, 42 per cent; vice-deacons, 36 per cent; deacons, 32 per cent; vice-rectors 13 per cent; and rectors six per cent.
197. The Ministry of the Sugar Industry, a sector which before the triumph of the Revolution was virtually closed to women, currently has women in 9.6 per cent of its senior posts, including four directors in the Central Office, three managers of agroindustrial sugar plants, two managers of national enterprises, two heads of provincial offices, four administrators of sugar plants, and one manager of a provincial enterprise.
198. The Ministry of Internal Trade has, in addition to its woman Minister, one woman vice-minister, three directors of central and universal enterprises, five directors in the Central Office, and for the first time a woman holding the post of trade director in a provincial office.
199. In the other sectors of the economy women have also been climbing up to the various management levels. The following are the proportions of women at the managerial level: in Health, 46.4 per cent; in Culture, 58 per cent; and in Science, a sector which is expanding and receives priority in the national programmes, 27 per cent. In this latter sector two women hold posts of agency director with the rank of vice-minister, and there are 21 women national directors in various branches and five provincial heads of office.
200. Women represent 23.3 per cent of senior staff in Tourism, 23 per cent in Radio and Television, 14 per cent in Iron and Steel, 12.5 per cent in Transport, etc.
201. The established strategy has facilitated evaluations of the specific situation in the various sectors and the implementation, with the participation of a number of governmental organizations, of such specific measures as:
- Workshops led by women in all the country's provinces and at the national level for the discussion of various topics of interest; this has provided input for debate and analysis and has helped to boost the involvement of women in these activities;
- Efforts to secure recognition of women holding senior posts at various levels; this has involved State organs, trade unions, the family and the community;
- Progress in the research on the topic "Women and Power"; some bodies are already carrying out the measures resulting from this research;
- Authorization by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, at the request of the Personnel Commission chaired by a representative of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, of a national study on "Working with the personnel committees", one of the topics of which is the participation and influence of women holding senior posts;
- The inclusion in this study of a component on "The gender approach in working with the personnel committees"; one of the aims is to identify problems in the selection and promotion process which impede women's access to senior posts, together with possible solutions to facilitate the development of the country's policy in this area.
202. Cuban women are guaranteed equal access with men to the country's NGOs, which number 2,154.
203. Cuba has the appropriate legal framework needed for facilitating the functioning of associations, provided that their objectives are of social benefit. This is stipulated in article 54 of the Constitution of the Republic and in the Associations Act (Law No. 54 of 27 December 1985), which establishes the legal regulations and the registration requirements.
204. It would have been impossible to complete any of the great tasks or secure any of the great achievements of Cuba's social and development programmes without the widespread, active and informed participation of the people and its representative organizations.
205. Cuba has the political will and a reserve of very competent women which will help it to achieve one of its cardinal aims - the exercise of full equality by women. This is the purpose of the work being done, in conjunction with FMC and other mass, social and professional organizations, to secure increased awareness not only among women but also in the family and in society at large.
206. These organizations have made an effective contribution to the drafting, justification and discussion of proposed legislation and amendments to legislation which have been brought before the Cuban Parliament. One example of this - described above - was the adoption of the National Plan of Action for Follow-up of the Beijing Conference.
207. It has been a constant concern of the Government to involve women and expand their role at the international level.
208. Women make up 48.7 per cent of the total workforce of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the organ of the Central Administration of the State responsible for carrying out the country's foreign policy.
209. Women also play a significant role in this Ministry's decision-making process. They comprise 29.7 per cent of the senior officials in the home service, holding two posts of vice-minister, three of director, six of deputy director, and three of head of department.
210. Women account for 14.2 per cent of personnel in the overseas service. There are at present 10 women ambassadors, four consuls general, one chargé d'affaires, and one minister counsellor; eight other women retain the rank of ambassador.
211. Since the submission of its last report Cuba was a member of the Commission on the Status of Women in 1993-1996 and is currently a member from 1998 until 2001. At each of the Commission's sessions Cuba has been represented by a large number of women, in both the governmental and the non-governmental delegations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in conjunction with FMC, the national mechanism for the advancement of women, has been keenly involved in this work.
212. In addition, since its fortieth session the Commission has been reviewing annually the 12 areas of special concern recognized in the Beijing Platform of Action and has adopted agreed conclusions on each topic, which have then been approved by the Economic and Social Council. Officials of the Foreign Ministry, FMC and the Cuban Mission to the United Nations are permanent members of the Cuban delegation in the Commission and take an active part in the negotiation of its agreed conclusions.
213. It should be noted in particular that in 1998 women delegates from these bodies took an active part in the discussion of the human rights topic of women and armed conflict.
214. Similarly, the women officials responsible for human rights matters have been following closely the proceedings of the Working Group on the Elaboration of a Draft Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; this process reached its culmination in 1999 with the adoption by the Commission of this legal instrument, which is to be ratified by the General Assembly at its fifty-fourth session.
215. The Cuban delegation has given similar attention to the negotiations and discussions on the topic of women in several United Nations forums: the Commission on Human Rights, the Third Committee of the General Assembly, etc.
216. The Cuban Government has also participated actively in all the meetings of the Presiding Officers of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); it has been a vice-chairman of these meetings for some years, as well as sending delegations to the regional conferences. Liaison has been established among the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean for the implementation of the agreements reached at the various meetings.
217. Attention must be drawn to Cuba's role in the seventh Regional Conference on the Integration of Women into the Economic and Social Development of Latin America and the Caribbean, at Santiago, Chile, in 1997, where it was responsible for presenting one of the thematic topics, on poverty in the Latin American and Caribbean context. In conjunction with Mexico, Cuba is currently preparing the topic of gender and equity for the eighth Regional Conference, which will be held in Peru in February 2000.
218. Another stage on which Cuba has maintained an active and top-level presence is the meetings of ministers responsible for policies on women, which have been held since 1995 and have evaluated topics connected with those examined at the Ibero-American summits of heads of State.
219. In addition, Cuba has made a female presence felt at important multilateral negotiations having a connection with the topic of women, such as the establishment of the International Criminal Court and the allocation of resources for the advancement of women in the developing countries, to mention only two examples.
220. Cuba has fulfilled all its obligations under the international treaties to which it is a party. In this connection it has been meticulous in the preparation and submission of its periodic reports. Women have played a leading role in this process, both in the drafting of the reports and in their presentation in the various committees. It is sufficient to note that the Cuban delegations to CEDAW (1996), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (1997), and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1998) were headed by women.
221. The presence of women has been promoted in the treaty organs and expert bodies of the United Nations. There are currently two Cuban women experts: one in CEDAW and one in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.
222. The provision of training for women and the improvement of their vocational qualifications has been of particular importance for their advancement. Hence Cuba's permanent concern to participate in both national and international seminars and workshops on the subject of women.
223. In September 1998 FMC, as the national mechanism for the advancement of women in Cuba, invited Angela E.V. King, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, to discuss experience and prospects in this area.
224. This visit, which the Cuban Government welcomed and gave its full support, enabled Ms. King to obtain more information about the status of women in Cuba and the implementation of the Government's National Plan of Action for Follow-up of the Beijing Conference; she received this information from ministers, vice-ministers, governmental experts, and FMC.
225. The Cuban Constitution establishes equal rights for men and women for the purposes of the acquisition, change or retention of nationality. This equal treatment is illustrated by the use of the neuter article in references to holders of these rights.
226. This applies equally to the concept and the forms of acquiring nationality, which are dealt with in the following articles:
Article 28: Cuban nationality is acquired by birth or naturalization.
Article 29: Cuban nationals by birth are:
(a) Persons born in the national territory, with the exception of the children of foreigners in the service of their Government or of an international organization;
(b) Persons born abroad of a Cuban father or mother on an official mission;
(c) Persons born abroad of a Cuban father or mother, subject to the completion of the formalities prescribed by law;
(d) Persons born outside the national territory of a father and mother who were born in the Republic of Cuba but have lost Cuban nationality, provided that they submit an application in the form prescribed by law;
(e) Foreigners who for exceptional merit in the battles for the liberation of Cuba are regarded as Cuban citizens by birth.
227. Article 31 contains a special regulation which is in full compliance with the provisions of article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: "Marriage or the dissolution of marriage shall not effect the nationality of the spouses or their children." This article establishes a fundamental principle of broad scope by including children on an equal footing as requiring the special protection which is accorded in all Cuban legislation.
228. It was an important milestone in the history of Cuban women for them to have participated as teacher and taught in the great Literacy Campaign, which in 1961 established universal school enrolment and laid the basis for full equality of status and of opportunities to participate in the formation of an increasingly cultivated society and thus to secure greater freedom.
229. Through its adult education subsystem the Ministry of Education is continuing this campaign as a priority; it has a network of 372 literacy centres, ranging from the elementary to the higher secondary level and including the teaching of languages.
230. The country's teachers are well trained and receive continual further training to tackle the whole diversity of needs for improved qualifications; residual and functional illiteracy is one of the main concerns. In close coordination with FMC, the Ministry gives particular attention to housewives and young women who have temporarily dropped out of education; these groups account for 50 per cent of the enrolment both for basic schooling and for further studies.
231. One eloquent example is that, 40 years after the triumph of the Revolution, 53,000 women are taking courses at all levels of adult education. A further 2,000 are learning a language, while some 200,000 opt to enrich their cultural development by studying various subjects of interest to them in the alternative courses.
232. At present the illiteracy rate among the over-15 population is 3.8 per cent. Among women it is 4.0 per cent, and on average the adult population has completed the ninth grade of education.
233. The purpose of the Cuban State is to continue improving this indicator, offering every possible study option on an equal footing to women who live in rural areas and areas of difficult access.
234. In all cases housewives and young women who are not studying or working receive the greatest priority, for they are identified as groups requiring special attention if they are to continue to improve their qualifications.
235. The reasons why some young women drop out of school before completing their higher secondary education are disappearing, especially the reasons connected with marriage and/or early pregnancy. This does not mean that they are not having children but that male and female students have been given more information and training on responsible sexual relations. If a young woman marries or becomes pregnant she still has opportunities of continuing her studies.
236. The results show that total drop-out is becoming increasingly less common, for better conditions are being created in schools and family understanding is being improved; there are also guarantees of school attendance close to home, and it is women who make greatest use of all these opportunities.
237. Non-working women are also found in higher education, where they are offered extramural courses. Women account for five per cent of all persons taking up this option.
238. In the regular system young women still account for more than 50 per cent of persons continuing technical and university studies. In the 479 technical institutes, 16 teacher-training schools and 15 universities, women provide 65 per cent of the total enrolment and over 62 per cent of all graduates.
239. On non-traditional courses the female presence is about 43 per cent; they study construction engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, electronics, communications, and other exact sciences.
240. Young women who complete their pre-university studies but do not opt for a university course have an opportunity to continue their education by means of the secondary technical courses offered in vocational schools and by taking alternative courses.
241. They may also take the short courses taught by professional teachers in the FMC women and family counselling centres. The centres also supply guidance on topics of interest connected with family training, reproductive and sexual health, and self-esteem.
242. Striking evidence is provided by the increasingly high-quality female presence in senior teaching posts. They account for 56 per cent of rectors, vice-rectors, deacons, heads of department, full professors, lecturers and instructors.
243. Women account for 50 per cent of persons holding professional responsibilities as teachers or scientists in the researcher category.
244. Furthermore, more than 65 per cent of the teachers at all levels of elementary, basic and higher secondary education are women.
245. All persons in Cuba are guaranteed opportunities of study and have access to the scholarships system in secondary, higher secondary, polytechnic and university education. For this purpose Cuba has more than 2,000 schools and other educational institutes providing multifaceted training and constant practical application of the knowledge which is being acquired.
246. Most of the curricula are continually being improved by the incorporation of all the necessary content for delivering - through the pedagogical teaching/learning process - a non-sexist education and in particular a broad knowledge of human development, values and moral rules, as well as a proper appreciation of sexuality and everything connected with that sphere of the emotions.
247. Serious efforts are being made - and important experiments are being carried out - to transmit these messages through the mass communications media and the publishing of textbooks, provided that they have been updated, and to produce new materials, necessarily in limited amounts owing to the shortage of resources.
248. It is extremely important to create the conditions for school attendance from earliest childhood. Thirty per cent of under-fives attend education institutions: children's circles, kindergartens and the preschool classrooms of primary education.
249. Priority is given to children of working women, while other children receive informal counselling and training, together with their parents, under the auspices of teams of professionals, which include doctors, nurses, physical training instructors, and teachers; other volunteer workers, with prior training, promote and work in this programme.
250. Physical and artistic education is part of the curriculum at all levels, catering for the potentials and aptitudes of Cuban women and men in sports and the arts.
251. Arrangements have been made to ensure that, from the moment skills of this kind are identified, people have an opportunity to attend school while at the same time training free of charge for their chosen sport or form of artistic expression.
252. The network of sports schools operates from the initial elementary stage to the higher level in all provinces. The arts schools are structured in the same way.
253. Cuba has competent professional instructors to train sports men and women, artists and intellectuals to the highest standards. Women account for the majority of these students (60 to 70 per cent).
254. The communities have sports centres and integrated socio-cultural facilities and projects which are available to the public at large and cultivate in the participants an attachment to their cultural identity, as well as facilitating exchanges and links with professionals, artists, and intellectuals in both sectors.
255. The existing material constraints prevent the extension of these facilities as fully and systematically to both urban and rural areas. Other options are brought into play, such as various events and performances organized in the community, which help to ease worries about recreation and spiritual development.
256. An effort is being made through the mass media to reach every corner of the country with programmes delivering information, education and culture. This includes the broadcasts of the Universidad Popular with its monthly TV and radio conferences of leading teachers and intellectuals.
257. Other programmes discuss women's and family topics on a participatory basis and provide opportunities for the participants to demonstrate the knowledge and skills which they are acquiring.
258. In the formulation of an educational model which is systematic, mixed, universal and free both from the institutional and from the community and family standpoints, priority attention has been given to the basic principle of participation regardless of sex, race, beliefs or age.
259. In addition to this principle, account is taken of the characteristics of each area, which is made possible by the centralization or decentralization of the programmes and teaching/learning processes on the basis of diversified teaching.
260. It is right and necessary to draw attention to the impact of the embargo, since it has impeded the normal development of education and has required a great effort by the State and the education system, as well as dedication from the teachers and their commitment to and understanding of the pupils and their families, for they have had to do their jobs without a proper supply of resources such as textbooks and other teaching materials, school uniforms, etc.
261. Despite the unjustified and immoral embargo which is preventing the provision of the best material conditions for each school course, encouraging advances have been made in school attendance and in social and family education. Cuba's schools constitute the community's most important and responsible cultural institution.
262. Cuban legislation guarantees non-discrimination against women in employment and vocational training and equal pay for men and women for equal work.
263. Today Cuban women take an active part in all sectors and branches of the economy. As already pointed out, women's access to jobs and their technical and vocational training are fundamental rights established on an equal footing with men.
264. The Government has implemented its employment policy in close liaison with FMC, which has been involved in the evaluation exercises, where its opinions and proposals have been taken into account.
265. It has been a great challenge in these times to combine an employment policy designed for economic efficiency with the protection of the advances secured for and by women in this area.
266. A continuous effort has been made to prevent any fall-off in the proportion of women in the workforce, and alternatives have been sought to offset the inevitable rationalization of jobs.
267. In the context of the very difficult economic circumstances in the country in the first half of the 1990s, employment suffered serious setbacks which were reflected in the drop in employment levels. Between 1990 and 1995 the workforce declined by 310,900, of which 116,600 were women, at an average annual rate of 1.5 per cent (about 63,000 a year).
268. Given the situation in the country and the closure of production plants, in 1994 the Ministry of Labour and Social Security issued Resolution No. 6, which guaranteed available (i.e. without temporary work) male and female workers 100 per cent of their wages during the first month of unemployment, and during subsequent months, until they found another job, a guaranteed income of 60 per cent of the reference fixed salary, with reductions depending on years of service.
269. This Resolution also stipulates that, when this benefit is insufficient to meet the minimum needs of the family, the case shall be taken up by Social Assistance, in accordance with the regulations in force.
270. Women taking maternity leave or other leave to which they are legally entitled may not be regarded as available during such leave.
271. Decree-Law No. 141 (1993) regulated the expansion of own-account work with a view to increasing employment opportunities. The main beneficiaries were those parts of the country where the supply of jobs is small. At the end of 1998, 28.1 per cent of all workers under this heading were women.
272. Employment began to pick up again in 1996. Jobs were found by an additional 40,400 workers - illustrating the economic recovery and the correctness of the policy pursued.
273. This trend was confirmed in 1997 and 1998, with reported job increases of 66,300 and 43,200 respectively, of which 10,200 and 23,400 were taken by women. This means that 33,600 women obtained jobs in the past two years.
274. The State sector recorded an increase of 10,900 women workers between 1997 and 1998, mainly in non-sugar agriculture, community and personal services, science and technology, and health.
275. In 1998 the proportion of women in this sector was 42.9 per cent, as against 38.7 per cent in 1989, before the Special Period. This means that 1,382,000 women were employed in the general economy.
276. The mixed and trading-company sector, created in order to boost Cuba's economic development, has 53,200 women workers today, 14,900 more than in 1996. This represents 35.8 per cent of total employment in this sector, a level which is still insufficient in view of the potential and the high standards of education and qualification of Cuban women.
277. Thousands of women have joined the economic development programmes, for example for sugar cane and several other crops, local self-supply, coffee, and tobacco, which in 1998 alone created about 50,000 new jobs for women. Of this total, 22,000 jobs were in agriculture and livestock activities: organic farming, intensive market-gardening, urban agriculture, tobacco growing and production, etc.
278. In the past two years the non-State sector has increased its female workforce by 7,900, mainly in own-account activities, in private farming resulting from the grant of land in usufruct, and in farming for the local market.
279. The proportion of women technical personnel is in an upward trend, while there has also been an increase in women managers, mainly in the local activities of the organs of people's power.
280. Women have played an outstanding role in science and technology in the five-year period. This highly qualified workforce today makes up 45 per cent of all workers, and 52 per cent of these women hold technical posts. An average of 1,000 women join this sector every year.
281. Women also have an important presence in the remaining economic sectors, which provide 1,208,300 jobs. The priority economic programmes have 145,800 women workers. A large number of these women are employed in non-traditional jobs.
282. Another clear demonstration of the leading role of women in the economy is the fact that the National Association for Innovation and Rationalization (ANIR), a lead agency in the struggle for economic development under embargo conditions, saw its female membership increase by 40,311 between 1996 and 1998.
283. The women's employment committees operate at the municipal, provincial and national levels as mechanisms for monitoring and promoting all measures connected with employment. Their structure, content and aims were described earlier.
284. Major progress has been made in the recruitment and retention of Cuban women in employment, but this task remains a priority for the whole country, for the supply is not meeting the increasing demands for women workers, who are improving and developing further every day, acquiring increased independence and a greater awareness of the role which is theirs and which they want to play in society.
285. Every year the organs of the Central Administration of the State and FMC analyse and refine their employment strategies for women in order to identify new sources and options which may offer solutions to the existing concerns and needs, for this is an area in which detailed work is necessarily still required.
286. Entitlement to social security benefits, in particular with respect to retirement, sickness, disability or incapacity to work for other reasons, as well as entitlement to paid leave, is something enjoyed by all Cuban workers, as legally established in the Labour Code (Law No. 48). The amount of each of these benefits is proportionate to the worker's wages.
287. The right to health and safety protection in the workplace, including protection of the reproductive function, is also dealt with in Cuba's labour legislation. The State has undertaken to establish all the arrangements and conditions to guarantee this protection to women workers. The existing corps of experts is swelled every year by hundreds of newly trained graduates, who are responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with this legislation.
288. Efforts have been made in Cuba, in the light of the requirements and possibilities of each area of the country, to establish and/or improve services for female workers and their families, such as the creation of the minimum conditions for the care of children and the elderly, and priority in the provision of basic services; legislation on the protection of women workers has also been improved.
289. Despite the financial constraints, over the past two years Cuba has continued to give attention to the care of the children of women workers, increasing the enrolment in children's circles and the part-time boarding schools in primary education.
Under-five school attendance (%)
Enrolment for part-time boarding
Enrolment for children's circles
290. More than five years ago the construction of new children's circle facilities was halted as a result of the Special Period; the number of places available for the children of working mothers has therefore declined, although the level of priority has been maintained for mothers doing essential work or who have some priority social problem.
291. Given this situation, FMC has been promoting, with the participation of the Ministries of Health and Education and employers' organizations, the creation of rural children's units as an alternative to the children's circle for the care of under-fives. This option benefits women working in the priority programmes of the economy, and at present it is the only possible means of enabling women to go out to work.
292. This is a real problem for a large number of women workers, for the recruitment and participation of women in the country's economic and social development has continued to increase without any support being provided by way of the creation of additional day-care places for their children.
293. The introduction of grandparents' centres and home-care services for old people lacking the support of children are two of the principal methods of caring for the elderly.
294. At the end of 1998 there was a total of 74 grandparents' centres catering for 12,448 old people, including 4,273 women. There are 42,994 old people living alone and receiving home-care services. In addition, the municipalities have a total of 424 gerontological teams providing primary care, and there are 48 special-care units and old-people's centres, which are attended by a large number of women.
295. An enormous effort has been made to keep to a minimum the cuts in the services which help to ease the daily household burden of the working family. As already pointed out, part-time boarding schools, workers' canteens, old-peoples homes and centres, and many other similar institutions have continued to operate. Not one of the children's circles has been closed, and their staff, working under difficult conditions, have continued to provide proper care.
296. There is also a programme providing economic assistance to single mothers who require it; to give only one example, jobs were found in 1998 for 7,079 single mothers.
297. All single mothers who so require are provided with systematic services by the Ministry of Labour and FMC through their network of social workers and women and family counselling centres.
298. The Labour Code and the wages system ensure compliance with the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, which Cuba ratified on 13 January 1954. However, Cuba's statistics system suffers from a lack of wages data disaggregated by sex, making it difficult to assess the situation with regard to equal wages in terms of the ILO Convention. ILO brought this situation to Cuba's attention, calling for improvement of the statistics system in order to solve the problem; this matter is addressed in the National Plan of Action for Follow-up of the Beijing Conference.
299. Cuban legislation guarantees non-discrimination against women in employment and vocational training, in accordance with ILO Convention No. 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, which Cuba ratified on 26 August 1965. At present most of Cuba's technical labour force is female. Cuba has not received any criticism from ILO in connection with this Convention.
300. Cuba's maternity legislation accords rights which go further than those established in ILO Convention No. 103 concerning Maternity Protection, ratified on 7 September 1954, with respect to the period of maternity leave and other leave for care of children, but it does not provide for any reduction in the mother's daily working hours during the first year of the child's life, as called for in the Convention; this has been a source of criticism.
301. Cuba's health services are still provided at three levels:
Primary: the main pillar is the corps of family doctors and nurses, and this level includes the polyclinics, health areas (now strengthened by the basic work groups), the municipal health offices, and the dental clinics;
Secondary: this level includes the general, clinical, surgical, paediatrics and gynaecology/obstetrics hospitals;
Tertiary: this level includes the Research and Assistance Institutes, the medical and pharmaceutical industry, and the Hermanos Ameijeras and Frank País Hospitals, both of acknowledged international standing.
302. The creation of the Rural Medical Service, the expansion and reorganization of primary health care on the model of the integrated polyclinic, the legalization of abortion subject to mandatory medical requirements, the establishment and consolidation of a national register of vital statistics, the initiation of the Programme for Early Detection of Cervico-Uterine Cancer, the establishment of maternity homes, etc., are some of the measures contained in a global strategy for improvement of the situation of the general population and of women in particular.
303. Cuba has important legislation and decrees on health protection which constitute the legal framework for all its health work:
Constitution of the Republic of Cuba;
Maternity Act (1976);
Health and Safety at Work Act (1977), which has specific chapters on women and adolescents;
Social Security Act (1979);
Decree-Law on basic health regulations (1982);
Decree on international health monitoring (1982);
Public Health Act (1983);
Resolution on State public health inspection (1987); and
Environment Act (1992).
304. The basic statutory instrument governing health matters in Cuba remains Law No. 41 of 13 July 1983, the content of which echoes the provisions of the Constitution that "everyone is entitled to care and protection of his or her health" and that "the State shall guarantee this right".
305. Article 4 (a) of this Law establishes the principle of equal access for men and women to medical services by recognizing and guaranteeing the right of the entire population to receive adequate health care and protection anywhere within the national territory.
306. This Law also establishes that health services and medical care shall be provided free of charge and that the health institutions shall be operated by the State.
307. Chapter II contains regulations on preventive and curative medical care, which is guaranteed to the entire population through the institutions of the National Health System.
308. Article 15 establishes the requirements for health-education work, and for pre-recruitment and subsequent periodical medical checks for all workers in order to prevent as well as to cure diseases.
309. The existing Health and Safety at Work Act (Law No. 13 of December 1977) lays down all the regulations needed to guarantee safe and adequate conditions for all workers and to prevent occupational accidents and diseases.
310. Medical and hospital treatment, laboratory work, vaccinations and surgery of all kinds, from the simplest procedures to the most complicated organ transplants and the use of the most up-to-date and costly techniques, such as computer-aided tomography, are available to the Cuban public entirely free of charge and without any discrimination.
311. The regulatory provisions of the Public Health Act were adopted by Decree No. 139 of 4 February 1988. This Decree sets out the regulations supplementing the provisions of the Act.
312. Chapter II, which deals with medical care and social welfare, contains the various regulations guaranteeing the equal access of men and women to medical care and family planning services. It contains guarantees for women with respect to the free provision of pregnancy, confinement and postnatal services and of adequate nutrition during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period.
313. The network of family doctors, maternity homes, polyclinics and hospitals guarantees childbirth in an institution providing skilled and specialized services, thus ensuring the best possible care of the mother and child.
314. The Working Women's Maternity Act (Law No. 1263 of 14 January 1974) provides for maternity protection, guaranteeing and facilitating, in the terms of article 1, special medical care during pregnancy, antenatal and postnatal leave, and leave during the breastfeeding period; it also provides for care of the children, granting an allowance for women who satisfy the requirements set out in its provisions.
315. In this connection, article 1 was amended by Law No. 61 of 29 September 1987, which increased the minimum benefit paid during maternity leave from 10,000 to 20,000 pesos a week.
316. The Labour Code (Law No. 49 of 28 December 1984) provides for paid antenatal and postnatal maternity leave, as well as for hospital services and free medication and food as required by the mother. The Code also regulates the protection of maternity and the provision of maternity benefits.
317. Regardless of the nature of their employment, working women are protected by the law, which allows them a total of 18 weeks' paid leave, requiring them to take six weeks after the thirty-sixth week of pregnancy and the remaining 12 weeks after giving birth.
318. In the case of multiple pregnancies or late births, the period of antenatal leave is extended by a further two weeks (also paid), and if the birth is premature, the period of leave is adjusted accordingly. Even if the baby dies, the mother is entitled to six weeks' paid leave. Antenatal leave is prescribed not merely as a right but as an obligation.
319. The primary level of care is supported by secondary and tertiary care delivered through the network of provincial and national specialized and general hospitals and by the research institutes, which provide their services to anyone requiring them.
320. Preventive and curative treatment is still being provided for the whole population, and the environmental-health and vaccination programmes are being maintained at the various levels of the National Health System.
321. Cuba established the priority strategies and programmes for the National Health System for the period 1995-2000 with an eye to continuing the sustained development of the system and achieving better health indicators for the whole population.
322. The transmissible diseases programme continues to monitor these diseases with a view to reducing the morbidity and mortality rates still further, as well as monitoring the risk factors in order to prevent outbreaks and epidemics. One outstanding feature is the impact of the vaccination programme, under which children receive 13 vaccinations free of charge. It has thus been possible to eliminate eight diseases, halt one (whooping cough), and secure decreases ranging from 52 to 93 per cent in a further four.
323. There are specific programmes on women's health. The most important ones of national cover remain:
The Mother and Child Programme;
The Programme for Early Detection of Cervico-Uterine Cancer;
The Breast Cancer Detection Programme.
324. The following two programmes are currently being expanded:
The Parental Awareness Programme;
The Older Adults Care Programme.
325. The programme on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) includes very specific measures for the female members of the population.
326. The first disease-control programme was established in Cuba in 1985, when a network of diagnostic units was set up and the first algorithms for confirming infection were established. This programme had a large component of preventive education and education for health based fundamentally on safe and responsible sex.
327. At the outset of the AIDS pandemic the Government decided to set up a multidisciplinary educational group to coordinate and organize the necessary measures on a permanent basis and to harmonize the objectives and use the potential of every agency and organization. The fundamental working policies have focused on increasing the people's perception of risks and reducing the vulnerability of persons and groups in Cuban society. Very specific measures are targeted on adolescents and young people of both sexes; various methods are used, ranging from educational work in student and community centres to an extensive programme of information and promotion through the mass media: press, radio, TV, etc.
328. About a year ago the Ministry of Public Health established a National Centre for Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS. This Centre is staffed by specialists, epidemiologists, psychologists, etc., and it pursues concrete, varied and innovative working policies ranging from individual counselling to anonymous consultations by telephone for anyone calling in on the "Help Line". This work is directed at the entire population but primarily towards young people of both sexes - in view of their vulnerability and risk status.
329. The present situation in Cuba (up to May 1999) is that 2,343 infected persons have been identified, a seropositive rate of 0.03 per cent. Of this total, 866 developed AIDS, and 619 deaths have been reported since the beginning of the epidemic. Males account for 75.8 per cent of cases of infection and 76.6 per cent of them are homosexual or bisexual; the male to female ratio is 3:1. This means that there is one case of infection for every 4,360 sexually active persons. Infection remains commonest in the 15-35 age group.
330. The Mother and Child Programme is one of the priorities of the health sector, and major efforts are put into it by the Government and NGOs, which are all committed to maintaining and improving the standards of health achieved among women, children and families despite the difficulties encountered by the Cuban economy in recent years owing to the economic, financial and trade embargo imposed by the Government of the United States.
331. The Programme's main indicators for 1997 and 1998 are regarded as satisfactory:
- In 1998 the infant mortality rate, determined mainly by perinatal infections, was 7.1 per 1,000 live births, seven tenths of a point lower than in 1996;
- The low birth weight indicator improved in comparison with 1996 and met the target of 6.9 per cent;
- The mortality rate among children of preschool age (one to four years) fell from 6.1 to 5.2 per 1,000, and the rate for the 5-14 age group dropped from 3.3 to 3.1 per 10,000. Accidents are the commonest cause of death in both these groups;
- The maternal mortality rate was 2.6 per 10,000 live births in 1998.
332. The Ministry of Public Health has set itself the task of consolidating and improving its work; it is regarded as vital to increase grass-roots participation in health measures and activities.
333. In developing its health programmes for women and children the Ministry has always enjoyed the collaboration of FMC and its community health workers, who total 79,071.
334. The current strategic plan includes participatory arrangements such as the national, provincial and municipal health councils and the people's health councils, which work as intersectoral coordination units at these levels. The aim is to secure decentralization, intersectoral coordination, social participation, and mobilization of resources, as well as other effects of greater medical, economic and social impact, by analysing health situations and applying solutions to the problems.
335. To this end, the "Municipalities for Health and Healthy Communities" movement is being strengthened in order to achieve its purpose of helping to expand the promotion and prevention strategies in the schools.
336. In 1994 Cuba had one doctor for every 204 inhabitants. In that same year there was one dentist for every 1,248 inhabitants. In 1998 there was a total of 62,624 doctors, one for every 176 inhabitants. In the dentistry service the proportion was one dentist for every 1,124 inhabitants; there is a total of 9,816 specialists. Women account for 32,755 of the total number of doctors.
337. In 1998 there were 28,855 family doctors: 18,244 of them were specialists in general medicine (epidemiology, internal medicine, paediatrics and gynaecology), and most worked at the community level. This programme covers 97 per cent of the population.
338. There is a total of 81,333 nurses, one for every 73.7 inhabitants.
339. The Medical Assistance hospitals have a total of 66,948 beds, with a ratio of 6.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. Social Assistance has 81,016 beds, a ratio of 7.3 per 1,000 inhabitants.
340. The systematic care provided for pregnant women includes regular primary-care checks by the family doctor and nurse from the moment the pregnancy is confirmed. The average number of antenatal checks is in excess of 10 and they are tailored to the individual.
341. Care is also provided for pregnant women in a maternity home or gynaecology/obstetrics hospital when their situation so requires; their nutritional state is monitored and they may be directed to public canteens and other institutions to ensure that they receive an adequate and balanced diet.
342. At the end of 1998 there were 227 maternity homes providing services throughout the country.
343. There is also an extensive programme of genetic research carried out in association with antenatal studies; this research uses the most up-to-date methods and facilitates the early detection of disorders. It includes programmes on the detection of cardiovascular malformations, defects of the neural tube, Down's syndrome, sickle-cell anaemia, phenylketonuria, and congenital hypothyroidism, and on the early detection of deafness and other hearing problems.
344. Pregnant women also receive dental care and medication in the form of vitamins, diet and iron supplements, etc.; all of this is free of charge, and 100 per cent of pregnant women are covered.
345. In addition there is the specialized and highly skilled treatment provided in the intensive paediatric care units and in the cardiovascular surgery, nephrology and oncology services.
346. A total of 99.8 per cent of deliveries take place in institutions and are attended by qualified staff.
347. One priority of the National Health System and the participating mass organizations is the Breastfeeding Programme, which encourages exclusive breastfeeding by the mother up to at least the fourth month. The Programme has a widespread community movement working in the hospitals and with doctors known as "Amigos de la Madre y el Niño"; this activity has a big educational component.
348. In 1998, 97.8 per cent of mothers breastfed their children following their stay in hospital.
349. Intensive measures are carried out under the Parental Awareness Programme, mentioned above, which combines the efforts of the Ministry of Public Health and FMC in an effort to provide a better preparation for women, couples and families with respect to care and treatment during pregnancy, confinement, and the postnatal and breastfeeding periods, as well as care of babies and upbringing of children.
350. Priority attention is given to problems of reproductive health such as wanted and unwanted pregnancies, fertility, abortion, infant and maternal mortality, and AIDS. There is a strategy for providing detailed sex, health and family education involving the health and education sectors and other organizations such as FMC and youth organizations, as well as the community at large.
351. An effort is being made further to reduce adolescent pregnancies and to maintain the skilled and specialized care provided for pregnant adolescents at the same level as in the past.
352. In this connection great importance has been attached to the training of specialized personnel, and this period saw the publication of the book Reproductive Health in the Adolescent, which is intended for family doctors and nurses.
353. The State takes a consistent approach to matters of family planning, seeking to guarantee women's rights and safeguard their sexual and reproductive health. The implementation of the National Family Planning Programme is the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Health, which works in coordination and collaboration with the National Sex Education Centre and the Cuban Family Development Association.
354. The Cuban Family Planning Association is represented in all the provinces, municipalities and polyclinics of the country and provides its services free of charge to anyone requesting them, even in the areas of most difficult access.
355. The embargo imposed by the Government of the United States is a big obstacle to Cuba's purchase of manufactured and patented goods. Various types of intra-uterine device and oral contraceptive are currently available, although the desired standards in terms of quality and supply have not yet been achieved. Intra-uterine devices are inserted free of charge and other contraceptives are sold at reasonable prices subsidized by the State.
356. The need for contraceptives is not being met. Cuba has a large quantity of intra-uterine devices but shortages of condoms and hormonal preparations; it is also difficult to obtain other more up-to-date contraceptives.
357. Special attention is given to problems connected with abortion in the implementation of the National Family Planning Programme.
358. In response to the concerns stated by FMC and in order to reduce the levels of maternal mortality due to abortion, the foundations were laid in 1995 for the institutionalization of the abortion services for women who do not know how or are unable to prevent an unwanted or ill-advised pregnancy.
359. The abortion services are available to women up to the tenth week of pregnancy free of charge and on request.
360. The abortion policy is based on the principle of family planning and respect for the sovereign decision of the couple, primarily the woman, and on the principle that, in the absence of a 100 per cent reliable and safe means of contraception, women cannot be denied the right to interrupt a pregnancy when the circumstances so require.
361. This service is formally available in secondary-care units providing safe abortion facilities. In 1996 the abortion rate was 25.9 per 1,000 women aged 12 to 49. In 1997 the rate fell to 24.8 and in 1998 it continued to fall, to 23.3 per 1,000.
362. The strategies are intended to reduce the indiscriminate use of this procedure by means of specific programmes to prevent unwanted pregnancies, encourage consistent and effective contraception, and promote responsible sex.
363. Boys are involved from childhood in the measures to improve reproductive health by means of correction or treatment of biological, mental or social conditions which may affect their future reproductive functions; this treatment is also available to adolescents and adults. Men also take a direct part in decisions on the planning of the family, and they are entitled and have access to vasectomy and the treatment of conditions affecting their fertility.
364. There are other family planning programmes on the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents; they are operated in hospitals, polyclinics and primary-care facilities and by the National Sex Education Programme. This is a result of the FMC concern about the difficulty of dealing with problems of adolescence and youth in a context of serious prejudices against talking about sex even when these matters need to be discussed with parents, families and teachers.
365. This was the purpose of the establishment of what is now the National Sex Education Centre, with its multidisciplinary and intersectoral staff. It has the services of various specialists and has been working hard on the training of multiplier agents and on educational materials for various age groups. An effort is being made to improve and carry out the programmes designed to achieve responsible and full sex lives by improving people's knowledge of these matters and enhancing their ethical values.
366. Other programmes on women's health give emphasis to self-responsibility and self-care involving the whole family; they are intended to prevent breast and cervico-uterine cancer. The focus is on the risk factors and the importance of early detection.
367. Since 1964 Cuba has had a national cancer register, and the Programme for Early Detection of Cervico-Uterine Cancer was set up in 1967. Early diagnosis is made by smear-testing of women aged over 25 every three years. In 1997 and 1998 the screening rates were 100.3 and 230.2 respectively per 1,000 women aged 25 and over.
368. The National Programme for Reduction of Deaths from Cancer was established in 1987, and screening for breast cancer has since been added. The procedure is for women periodically to examine their own breasts and to go for examination by their family doctor; mammography is available when the case so requires.
369. The death rate from breast cancer in 1997 and 1998 was 18.6 and 18.2 per 100,000 women respectively.
370. Where prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation are concerned, women have the services of their family doctor and specialists in gynaecology, mastology and cytology from the primary to third levels of care; all these services are provided free of charge to 100 per cent of the population at risk.
371. Certain patients are entirely exempted from paying for medicines: persons infected with or carrying AIDS, persons suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis or occupational diseases, children with acute diarrhoeal diseases, and children requiring vaccination.
372. If a person needing any of the products available for purchase has a very low income or finds himself in an economic situation which prevents his paying for a product, he receives social security subsidies.
373. In 1999 Cuba's social security budget amounted to 1,592 million pesos; the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is the agency responsible for administering the State policy, which combines the efforts of the ministries of Health, Education, and Culture and Sports, and of other bodies and NGOs.
374. This budget heading is one of the largest areas of expenditure of the Cuban State, exceeding even those of Health and Education.
375. Cuba produces information materials targeted on vulnerable groups such as single mothers, adults and older adults, the disabled, minors suffering social disadvantages, adolescents and young people.
376. The fundamental principle is to provide comprehensive protection for all single mothers exhibiting social problems who do not have the necessary material resources to resolve their difficulties themselves and so require help from society.
377. When a case is identified in the community or when a woman approaches Social Assistance herself, a comprehensive analysis is made of her situation and measures and solutions are proposed; these may take the form of benefits in kind, services, grants, job education or training, counselling and/or direct action by professional social workers or community volunteers.
378. In 1997 a total of 22,654 single mothers received assistance: 4,306 were found jobs and 2,308 received food allowances for their children; help was provided in securing recognition of paternity in 1,900 cases.
379. The first programme was initiated in 1974, and 1985 saw the introduction of the option of care by the family doctor and his team.
380. The specific aims of this programme are to create a community gerontological model, improve the quality of care and encourage a better quality of life in the social institutions, and provide comprehensive hospital care for the elderly in accordance with modern geriatric science.
381. The programme operates throughout the country. It focuses on three integrated areas: community care, institutional care and hospital care.
382. There are other initiatives such as the grandparents' centres, attended by more than 296,000 older adults, sports and cultural centres, the facilities of the Counselling and Recreation Groups movement (656 for the whole country), universities of the third age in Santiago de Cuba and Havana, and the retirees movement, which carries out educational activities in a number of enterprises and bodies in order to train new generations of workers, etc.
383. All these activities are backed up by the Mental Health Programme, which is designed not only to provide care and rehabilitation for the sick and injured or to correct unhealthy lifestyles but also to carry out promotion and prevention measures.
384. Nine per cent of Cubans are elderly persons living alone. Of this total, 38,480 are provided with food and with laundry and personal hygiene services in the home.
385. Mentally disabled persons who also have other social or family problems are catered for in the country's 26 part-time and full-time residential homes for the physically and mentally disabled.
386. Cuba has three associations for the disabled: for persons with physical or locomotor problems (ACLIFIM), for the blind and visually impaired (ANCI) and for the deaf and hearing impaired (ANSOC); these associations cater for 78,630 persons. Their budgets are provided by the State, which meets the costs of medical care, rehabilitation, medicines, education, culture, sports and recreation, and social assistance; they also have their own revenue, including charitable donations.
387. The State gives special attention to the disabled and endeavours to increase the integration of persons with some degree of disability in useful life in society; there are currently 36 specific programmes for this purpose. More than 2,500 persons with some disability have been found jobs, mostly doing suitable work in the country's 138 special small-scale industrial workshops.
388. Since rehabilitation is extremely important for these persons, the Ministries of Public Health and Education give special attention to this area under a medical/teaching programme providing specialized and individualized training from birth. These activities are the responsibility of the diagnosis and counselling centres: there is a network of 1,540 health assistance centres and 427 special education schools catering for 55,348 persons; the training thus provided is backed up by sports and cultural facilities. These services are provided by the best professional and technical staff and other workers, as well as by activists from mass organizations.
389. The results of all these programmes can be seen in the opportunities and guarantees offered to the disabled to improve their cultural development and their access to the higher levels of study that they can cope with. Good results are also being achieved in the various sports disciplines, and Cubans have won medals at international and pan-American events and at the Olympics.
The embargo's impact on health
390. The embargo makes it impossible for Cuba to buy pharmaceutical products and medical equipment or the raw materials needed for their manufacture in Cuban laboratories and enterprises. This affects directly and indirectly all the activities of the National Health System, including special situations such as epidemics, emergencies and relief work. The embargo is designed to undermine the health of the population in general and of women in particular. As examples, attention is drawn to the following adverse effects:
(a) The annual demand for sanitary tampons is currently estimated at about 100 million, but only about 39 per cent of this demand can be met, since the raw materials for the manufacture of tampons have to be imported under the restrictions mentioned above. This often compels thousands of women to use alternatives which increase their risk of contracting vaginal infections, which in turn cannot always be treated in time or with suitable medicines owing to the shortages;
(b) There has been an impact on the programmes for early detection of cervico-uterine and breast cancer, whose initiation in 1968 and 1987 respectively brought about a considerable reduction in morbidity and mortality due to these causes. Shortages have developed in materials and equipment for smear-testing (Papanicolau test), spare parts, fuel, and radiography equipment for the mobile mammography units; this means that mammography cannot be used in the routine process of prevention but only for women at high risk;
(c) Cuba has three million women of childbearing age, and the shortage of reliable, safe and accepted means of contraception is helping to increase the risks of unwanted or early pregnancy, abortion, low birth weight, etc.;
(d) Cuba has 16.5 diabetics per 1,000 inhabitants, and a considerable proportion of them are insulin-dependent: their lives depend on the supply of the drug. Deaths due to diabetes mellitus have been increasing among women;
(e) Changes have occurred in Cuba's nutritional picture. In 1996 alone, for example, spending on food imports was estimated at about 43.8 million pesos more than would have been spent if Cuba had had access to the United States market for four of the main imported products: wheat, maize, powdered milk, and oilseed flour;
(f) The tightening of the embargo produced an increase in the number of pregnant women suffering nutritional problems and in the number of children with low birth weight. This situation compelled the Government to take emergency measures and formulate ad hoc strategies to provide even greater protection for the health of mothers and children. Thanks to the efforts of FMC, the workers' canteens and other mass grass-roots organizations, and the efforts of health workers, it has proved possible to bring down the infant and maternal mortality rates despite the difficult circumstances.
391. The Constitution of the Republic guarantees the rights of all Cuban citizens on an equal footing in other spheres of economic and social life as well, such as the right to family benefits.
392. Since the 1970s Cubans have been able to exercise their right to obtain bank loans and other kinds of credit in the form in which they are available today.
393. In 1997-1998 a Resolution of the Minister President of the National Bank of Cuba accorded facilities, involving various personal credit products, to all employed persons and retirees:
Cash loans: to be used to meet family needs, purchase expensive items, etc.;
Investment loans: for housing construction, minor repairs, and purchase of building materials;
Consumption loans: for purchase of electrical domestic equipment allocated to leading and outstanding workers by their central union organization.
394. With specific reference to agricultural activities, women have the same rights as men to obtain bank loans; most of the women taking out loans are members of credit and service cooperatives or agricultural production cooperatives, or they are independent property-owning small farmers, who in Cuba total 7,873.
395. There are other kinds of family benefit available to university students from low-income families. As long as they are studying they receive bank loans in monthly instalments to be repaid after graduation, once they have begun work. As an incentive, repayment is waived for students obtaining the best results.
396. Another kind of family benefit provided by the State is bank loans to meet the cost of housing. In Cuba almost 90 per cent of new housing is allocated to families as owner-occupiers. The purchase price depends on the type of property, ground area and location. This is the basis for the calculation of the price which the worker must pay with his or her bank loan.
397. Monthly repayments are made to the bank over a period of up to 20 years, depending on the value of the property. This arrangement was established in 1960 and benefits thousands of Cuban citizens irrespective of their sex.
398. Information on the right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life (art. 13 (c)) was given under article 10.
399. Cuba's rural population accounts for 32.9 per cent of the total, and 46.9 per cent of rural dwellers are women.
400. Cuba has 14 provinces; nine of them are mountainous and are the target of an integrated development programme known as the Turquino Plan. This Plan gives emphasis to the advancement of women in economic, social and family matters and it creates the conditions for the attainment of this objective.
401. Rural areas are divided into State and private land. The State land is taken up by agricultural projects and enterprises, and the private land is divided between cooperatives and individual farms.
402. Farming employs a total of 201,073 women workers, 21.3 per cent of the total workforce. This figure represents an increase of 57,339 over 1997.
403. There are 8,445 women holding managerial posts (21.5 per cent of all such posts). The administrative structure employs a further 557 women (8.5 per cent). In both cases the numbers of women increased over the previous year.
404. In 1998, 69,494 women obtained qualifications, an increase of 35,495 over the previous year; these figures include women trained in technical specialities, general management, business management, etc.
405. The workforce in the sugar industry is 20 per cent women; female employment is in an upward trend here and increased by 34,000 during the period. It must be pointed out that in this sector, traditionally dominated by men, 9.6 per cent of the managers are today women.
406. The search for more efficient production methods in farming and the proven experience of the cooperative system led to the creation of the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), a decentralized arrangement whose main feature is the allocation of State land in usufruct to a workers' collective so that they can jointly produce and market their goods, basically through the State. Women find a considerable source of employment in UBPCs and already make up 18 per cent of their total membership. Of these women, 18.8 per cent are employed in the sugar industry and 16.8 per cent in other branches.
407. Another means of securing the ongoing changes in the farming economy is the award of holdings to persons who wish to farm the land, especially in mountainous or remote areas, as a means of rehabilitating the coffee and cocoa plantations, etc.
408. More than 60 per cent of the land in the small-farming sector is held by cooperatives. Women currently account for 17 per cent of the membership of the Farming and Livestock Production Cooperatives (CPA) and for 10.3 per cent of the Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS); 16 women chair CPAs and 37 chair CCSs.
409. The participation of rural women and their recruitment and continued employment in CPAs and CCSs is systematically analysed and evaluated in conjunction with the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP).
410. The number of women working in CCSs increased from 16,800 in 1996 to 18,400 in 1998.
411. The number of women farmers has also increased as a result of the award of land in usufruct, and today there are 6,800 women farming under this form of tenure, as against only 3,000 in 1996.
412. In all, there are 76,453 rural women engaged in the various forms of economic production.
413. As already pointed out, the Agrarian Reform Act adopted in Cuba in May 1959 accorded women the right to hold land on an equal footing with men.
414. Many women became owners, and their number has been increased through the inheritance of land from parents or husbands. Today Cuba has 7,873 women owners of farms or other land; they comprise 9 per cent of all private owners.
415. Rural women are also found in and have access to administrative posts in cooperatives and in the grass-roots ANAP organizations at this level. At the end of 1994 only 211 women held managerial posts in these organizations, but in 1998 there were 258 women members managing the basic activities (22 per cent of all managers), and 16 of them chaired CPAs.
416. There are three women national managers, 18 provincial and 20 municipal, and seven of them are chairpersons.
417. The integrated development of rural areas has made it possible to systematize the health services; there are now 64 rural hospitals, including in mountainous areas of difficult access. There are 1,133 family doctor offices, providing not only consultations but also treatment and preventive measures for all citizens.
418. The preventive and curative health programmes targeted on women, such as the breast and cervico-uterine cancer programmes and the Mother and Child Programme, are implemented to the same standards of quality as in the rest of the country.
419. To give only one example, the infant mortality rate in rural areas at the end of 1998 was less than one per 1,000 live births - a result of the services provided for pregnant women and children in these areas.
420. In recent years 37,335 students have graduated from the agricultural polytechnics, a source of technical and professional personnel for the rural areas. Women account for 16,642 of this total, most of them residents of rural areas and daughters of farmers.
421. The upland areas have three mountain universities (Universidades Serranas) providing vocational training for the local residents, especially in the agricultural, livestock and forestry branches. Vocational training is also being expanded by means of teacher-training units, thus ensuring that the future supply of teachers will be from the areas themselves.
422. Several State bodies operate training, retraining and further training schools: the Ministry of Agriculture has schools in all the provinces of the country, most of them in rural areas; and the Sugar Ministry has schools in six provinces. There are other associated training and further training centres which also carry out research, such as the Horticultural Research Institute, the Citrus Research Institute, the Sugar Cane, Coffee and Rice Research Institutes, etc., which are located in rural areas and include among their priorities the provision of technical training for male and female rural workers.
423. ANAP has its National Training Centre in a rural area in the west of the country. Its purpose is to train and prepare male and female rural leaders in new techniques and technologies. Between 1995 and 1998 more than 1,000 rural women passed through this Centre.
424. These training courses have begun to introduce very important subjects incorporating a gender perspective and approach, with a view to planning and developing more detailed and concrete activities to improve the training of the rural family.
425. Various rural development programmes have been adversely affected during the 10 years since 1989. In the first five years of the Special Period, in which the Cuban economy was dealt a heavy and unexpected blow, development projects virtually came to a halt. The daily lives of rural families in general and of women in particular were seriously affected, primarily with respect to electricity services, water supply, transport and communications.
426. The recent periods of severe drought in several areas of the country, mainly the eastern region, as well as the calamity of three cyclones, in 1995, 1996 and 1997, affected farm output, water supply, roads, production plants, etc.
427. Following the economic recovery in the second half of the decade, priority has been given to housing construction in rural areas. In the period 1997-1998 more than 4,000 dwellings were built in agroindustrial complexes, and a large proportion of the housing damaged by the cyclones was repaired.
428. While it is true that the progress of rural women in terms of the quantity and quality of their presence in the sector may be regarded as reasonable, they remain a priority in the Government's strategy and in the formulation of social policies, especially in health and education, as well as in the provision of opportunities of employment and training; this has had a favourable impact on the lives and status of rural women and their families.
429. Cuban legislation makes no distinction based on sex with regard to the right of rural landowners to credit and bank loans: women are treated on an equal footing with men.
430. In accordance with the principle of equality established in the Constitution, the Civil Code (Law No. 59 of 16 July 1987) treats women and men equally, investing both sexes with the same legal capacity and means of exercising it.
431. Taking an ethical as well as a juridical line, article 1 states: "The Civil Code shall regulate property and other connected non-property relations between persons on the basis of equality, with a view to satisfying material and spiritual needs."
432. Cuban women have the legal capacity to sign civil and commercial contracts of every kind, administer property and obtain financial credit.
433. The spouses require each other's consent to acts connected with the ownership, administration or alienation of the common property of a marriage; this requirement applies equally to both of them.
434. Excluded from the common property is personal property acquired before or during the marriage which is classified as such in the Family Code; both spouses may freely dispose of their personal property.
435. Women and men have equal rights with regard to the legal capacity to inherit, regardless of whether the legator is testate or intestate.
436. A woman whose marriage has been dissolved and who wishes to remarry within 300 days of the dissolution merely has to supply a medical certificate from a State assistance centre declaring whether she is pregnant. The purpose of this requirement is to establish affiliation, for the benefit of both former spouses.
437. Males and females wishing to marry are subject to different rules: the Family Code of 14 February 1975 requires both bride and bridegroom to be at least 18 years old, but the age for exceptions to this rule is 14 years for females and 16 years for males.
438. Pursuant to the Constitution, women have the same access as men to the courts of justice in all kinds of proceedings; this is established in the Criminal Procedure Act (Law No. 5 of 13 August 1977) and in the Civil, Administrative and Labour Procedure Act (Law No. 7 of 20 August 1977).
439. As stated in earlier reports, in Cuba family relations are governed by the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic and the Family Code. Chapter IV of the Constitution, on the family, enjoins the State to protect families, maternity and marriage.
440. Article 2 of the Family Code states that "marriage is a union entered into voluntarily by a man and a woman having the legal capacity to do so for the purpose of living together". Marriage is based on the absolute equality of duties and rights of the spouses, who must provide for the maintenance of the home and the comprehensive upbringing of their children through their common efforts and in such a way that this process is compatible with the development of the social attitudes of both spouses.
441. The age of marriage for both men and women is 18 years. In exceptional cases and for justified reasons persons may be authorized to marry earlier, females at age 14 and males at age 16.
442. The expression of the wish to marry is an essential requirement in all cases, including situations in which the authorization of other persons is required for an under-age male or female.
443. Cuban legislation still provides for legal recognition of informal marriages, with all the legal effects of formalized marriages, provided that the requirements of stability and a one-partner union are met.
444. In both formalized and informal marriages the partners have equal rights and responsibilities, each towards the other and both towards their children.
445. Article 53 of the Family Code provides that divorce actions may be brought by either spouse without distinction.
446. Marriage certificates and divorce decrees both contain provisions on parental authority and on the custody, care and maintenance of minor or disabled children.
447. The mother and father, by common accord, may make their proposals on these matters, but in no case may they infringe upon the best interests of the child. Article 89 provides that "if no agreement is reached ... or if the agreement is harmful to the material or moral interests of the children, the matter shall be resolved by the competent court, which, in reaching its decision, shall be guided solely by the best interests of the children". All of these provisions apply regardless of the civil status of the parents.
448. The Civil Code treats the legal capacity of women to inherit on an equal footing with that of men, regardless of whether the legator is testate or intestate.
449. Pursuant to article 29 of the Family Code, the economic regime of a marriage is the regime of joint ownership of the common property of the marriage: "This regime shall operate from the moment at which the marriage is formalized or from the date of the initiation of the union, and it shall cease when the marriage bond is dissolved for whatever reason."
450. On the dissolution of a marriage, the common property is divided equally between the spouses. In the event of death, it is divided between the surviving spouse and the heirs of the deceased. The division is made by agreement between the parties or by a court decision. In the latter case the court may rule that certain items of jointly owned domestic property that it deems necessary for the upbringing of minor children may be assigned to the spouse awarded custody and care of the children.
451. With regard to conjugal relations, article 28 establishes the equality of the spouses in the exercise of their professions or jobs and their duty to cooperate with and assist each other for this purpose, as well as for the purposes of study and improvement of their qualifications.