Search icon


27th Sep 2022

Why Cuba’s redefinition of the family is so significant

The measures were voted in earlier this week.

Yesterday, Cuba voted 66.9% in favour of a new “families code”, which, according to The Guardian, contains over 400 articles relating to rights for same-sex couples, children, women, and older people.

The referendum has been generally reported as redefining what family means in Cuba, but what is it exactly that has changed? Well, for starters, under the new code, marriage is defined as “the voluntary union of two people on the basis of affection, love, and mutual respect”, while its definitions of family are not centered on tradition, but on love, human dignity, equality, and the right to live free from violence.

While the individual measures are many, here are some of the key changes, as reported by Progressive International:

  • Right for same-sex couples to marry and start a family
  • Reproductive rights for all
  • Parents have “responsibility” for their children, rather than “custody”
  • Corporal punishment is outlawed
  • Expansion of working rights for full-time carers
  • Stronger penalties against domestic violence

While Cuba’s Families Code has been met with some opposition in the country, LGBT+ and women’s rights activists from around the world have welcomed the measures. The move is significant not only in the context of what it means for Cubans but for the global precedent it sets.

The idea that the LGBT+ community wants to “redefine” what family means has long been a moral panic upheld by the right-wing media. It’s one that posits equality, protection from discrimination, and bodily autonomy as threatening entities, intent on stripping away the rights of the traditional family model. It’s used as a fear tactic, designed to dissuade the public from voting against measures that might extend the rights of others.

The safety of children is often framed as being in jeopardy when the conversation turns to redefining family, but under Cuba’s new definition, children’s rights are only enshrined further. For instance, the laws prohibit corporal punishment and prevent child marriage. Children are viewed not as the property of their parents, but as beings that deserve care, love, and safety by their guardians.

With its Families Code, Cuba demonstrates that redefining families doesn’t take anything away from the traditional model. Instead, we see how universal ideas of love, equality, and the right to live free from discrimination and violence become guiding principles.