All types of families are valued in Cuba. Photo: Juvenal Balán

In the family arena, challenges in Cuba’s social environment are on the horizon, in accordance with the reigning diversity of family institutions, and related problems, given the fact that the country’s new Constitution stipulates that a new Families Code is to be approved within two years.

For Yamila González Ferrer, vice president of the Union of Cuban Jurists, challenges in this regard are many, as the task involves work to modify family institutions, updating them to meet current needs and ensure the solution of conflicts that emerge in this arena.

The fact that our Constitution protects family diversity, and that all types of families are equally valid and important, is fundamental, González said, in the context of the most recent meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Children, Youth, and Equal Rights for Women.

“There must be coherence between the constitutional text and the postulates that support legislation,” she continued.

González Ferrer insisted on not losing sight of the fact that the family environment is where stereotypes of various kinds, mainly sexist, are maintained. “Therefore,” she said, “it is essential to develop strong awareness within the population; people must know the contents that will be reflected in the new code and understand that you cannot limit the rights of people based on stereotypes or prejudices, which lead to acts of discrimination.

“The family environment must be harmonious and inclusive, where the personality as a whole can be developed. On the other hand, we cannot consider families separate from the political and public sphere, since they are the fundamental unit of society. In this environment, human dignity has a very particular dimension, and any act that diminishes dignity is a social problem,” she said.

In her opinion, the new Families Code must support the Revolution’s social justice project that is based on human dignity, and the effective equality of all men and women in our country.

Effective equality, González said, is not only formal equality, but real equality, valuing differences and equity. Thus, all measures must be taken to ensure that people who have historically been vulnerable can achieve and truly enjoy this equality before the law, which is expressed in our Constitution.

Another big challenge, according to González, is emphasizing and strengthening family responsibility - from the emotional, educational, and economic point of view - in the care of its members, including mothers or fathers who assume upbringing of their sons or daughters alone; people with disabilities; older adults, given the aging of Cuba’s population; members facing challenges as a result of sexual orientation or gender identity - to reaffirm the protective and affective concept of the Cuban family to which we aspire.

Dr. Mayda Álvarez Suárez, head of the Women’s Studies Center associated with the Federation of Cuban Women, spoke with members of the National Assembly about the reconfiguration of Cuban families and their diversity.

The researcher noted that the current context of the family institution is marked by a number of elements, including the impact of a systemic structural crisis; the U.S. blockade of Cuba; the consequences of the Special Period; the updating of the country’s economic model; information and communications technology; and in particular, current demographic dynamics.

Among the tendencies affecting Cuban families, Álvarez noted the fact that the number of small families is increasing, as are households in which both conjugal partners work. The number of couples cohabitating without having formalized their union is also growing, and the birth rate is declining, while the number of children born outside of marriage is increasing.

One of the principal problems in the Cuban family environment identified by the expert is overemphasis on the economic function of families, to the detriment of other essential roles, including the educational. This goes hand in hand with the issue of women being overloaded with domestic chores and the care of other family members, along with difficulties in reconciling family life and work, in addition to the growing diversity of economic activities in which different family members may be involved.

If there is one element that is creating tension within Cuban families, Álvarez said, it is the issue of care giving. Cuban women have achieved a notable presence in public life, representing the majority of workers in technical and professional fields, and the number of single women heading households has increased. In this context, attending to and meeting the needs of older adults within the family continues to be almost exclusively the responsibility of women, including older adult women caring for others like themselves, she noted.

The time and effort families devote to fulfilling their economic role, along with the limited existence and development of home support services, contribute to women being overworked, with negative repercussions not only in reconciling home and work lives, but also as a factor that limits the supervision and availability parents and other adults provide children and youth.

Nonetheless, there are many social policies that protect Cuban families. The family environment continues to be of essential value to people, not only as a place to live, but also as a support network, serving as the basic unit maintaining the country’s social fabric, Dr. Álvarez insisted.

“When we are discussing the new code, it is fundamental to remember what families we are talking about, to be conscious of their heterogeneity, and not lose sight of the fact that this law must look like, and respond to, its time,” she concluded.

Types of households:

• One person

Consisting of a single person.

• Nuclear

Composed of one of the following combination of persons:

- Two conjugal partners without children;

- Two conjugal partners with their children;

- A single parent, mother or father, and their children

• Extended

Composed of one or two conjugal partners, children and other relatives of the head of household, up to the fourth degree of consanguinity and second of affinity. (An extended family may include one or more nuclear families, or not)

• Compound

Composed of any of the above, plus other persons who are not related to the head of household. (A compound family may include one or more nuclear families, or not)