There has been an increase in the number of people who have sought guidance or help in connection with violence, indicating increased detection and awareness. In addition, the grass-roots organizations of FMC monitor and attend to 16,410 people across the country, which is 2,744 more than last year.
15. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in her recommendations, urged the Federation of Cuban Women to “ establish shelters for women victims of violence in all provinces ” (E/CN.4/2000/68/Add.2, para. 103). Cuba ’ s report refers to women ’ s and family counselling centres (CEDAW/C/CUB/5-6, para. 255). Do these centres provide special care and rehabilitation services for women victims of violence? If not, what steps will be taken to implement the Special Rapporteur ’ s recommendation?
In our view, the best way to protect women victims of violence is to isolate the aggressor, since otherwise there would be a double victimization upon separating the women and, in most cases, their children, from their familiar living environment and conditions, places of work or study, and relationships with family, neighbours and friends.
In addition, in Cuba women can obtain free legal, psychological, employment, educational, health and other guidance in community institutions as needed, as well as courses in high-demand trades and help in job placement. The protection of children and youth is a priority, which makes it possible for minors to continue in their schools and other age-appropriate activities. Women who are unemployed can also apply for social assistance until they find employment.
The women’s and family counselling centres set up by FMC are staffed by professionals working in different disciplines, who provide specialized, multidisciplinary and multisectoral counselling and carry out group activities with women victims of violence. The Federation’s volunteer social workers ensure systematic follow-up and continuous care. FMC is also part of the community social service network for victims of family violence. Liaisons with the various components of society have been established as part of community working groups created in local governments across the country, in order to provide individualized, comprehensive services for each case.
There are also rehabilitation programmes for aggressors in specialized centres such as the community mental health centres in each municipality.
Proposed amendments to the current penal code include more measures for the protection of victims as well as the requirement, as part of the applicable penalty, that aggressors attend specialized rehabilitation and treatment.
In addition, other types of aggressor rehabilitation which do not necessarily involve criminal penalties will be improved. Also, a special family procedure will be implemented and special family law divisions will be established, where possible, in the People’s Courts.
16. The report indicates that the national programme carried out by the Ministry of Public Health to prevent suicide and suicide attempts also deals with the issue of violence and that the rate among women has fallen significantly, from 20.9 per cent in 1980 to 8.1 per cent in 2002. What measures were implemented to achieve this reduction, and have any studies been done on the causes of the high suicide rate among women, which the Special Rapporteur on violence against women highlighted in her report (E/CN.4/2000/68/Add.2, para. 34)?
The National Suicide Prevention Programme analysis indicates that the suicide rate has fallen from 8.1 per 100,000 women in 2002 to 6.1 per 100,000 women in 2005; suicide rates among women are lower than the total rates. Suicide attempts among women have also decreased from 168.4 per 100,000 in 2002 to 144.6 per 100,000 in 2005.
Suicidal behaviour in Cuba is similar to that in the rest of the world, and is mainly found in the 65-74 and 75 and above age groups. Suicide does not appear among the top 10 causes of death among women.
National epidemiological research on suicidal behaviour is ongoing and includes actively seeking out any type of suicidal behaviour among the population. A questionnaire has been drafted to be filled out by people who have attempted suicide, by their family members if the attempt was successful and by the health-care personnel who responded to the event. Men and women who have attempted suicide are treated under in a protocol for comprehensive and continuous care coordinated by their community mental health centres.
Studies have found that the main predisposing factors in this behaviour among the elderly are the loss of a spouse or partner (widowhood), chronic disabling diseases, terminal illness and depression. Women tend to cope better than men, since they are more willing to accept help from support networks in their communities, particularly through local FMC structures and the women’s and family counselling centres, and grandparents’ centres as places for companionship, reflection and counselling, which facilitate their integration into the community and make them feel they belong.
In terms of institutions, there are homes for the elderly which take in elderly persons who have little or no filial support, and grandparents’ centres for the outpatient population, which provide adult day care that substitutes for family attention during working hours and where communities of interest in these age groups promote a pleasant social climate. Significantly more women than men are served by these institutions.
Community cafeterias, laundry services and, in many cases, State-subsidized non-family caregivers also help to provide comprehensive care for the elderly.
Since 1995 the National Suicide Prevention Programme has been part of the reorientation of psychiatry towards primary health care; its main characteristic is its stratified, community approach. Its goals are to:
•Promote healthy lifestyles in the population;
•Prevent suicide and suicide attempts in at-risk groups and situations;
•Offer comprehensive, continuous care in the event of suicidal behaviour.
A number of activities have been carried out as part of the strategy:
•In an effort to promote healthy lifestyles in the general population, health education activities on suicidal behaviours are conducted in schools (coordinated by the Ministry of Education) and in communities (coordinated by grass-roots organizations), which encourage the active participation of the family. Alcoholic beverages are not served at these activities.
•Workshops were held for at-risk groups in specific communities, specialized personnel were trained to lead the activities, personalized attention was given to each family of a man or woman who had committed or attempted suicide, and links were forged with community members to support them.
Each person who has attempted suicide is also guaranteed one year of follow-up services by the mental health teams of the community centres. Health-care professionals are also required to report suicide attempts.
A brochure on the prevention and control of suicidal behaviour was published, including practical guides for the design and implementation of local programmes, and qualitative epidemiological studies were conducted to typify suicidal behaviours in selected territories.
17. Please indicate whether any research has been done or statistics compiled on legal proceedings instituted to report, prosecute and penalize violence against women or on assistance provided to women victims of violence.
There is a nationwide statistical monitoring system built on a primary database established from medical reports of violent sex offences, classified as rape, statutory rape and sexual abuse. This system goes hand in hand with a training programme for health-care professionals on the subject of violence and an educational programme for women, informing them of their rights and their responsibility for reporting acts of violence and seeking medical care if they are victims of such acts.
As regards research on violence in general and domestic violence in particular, in the health sector a large number of end-of-residency studies have been devoted to this subject, mainly in the fields of psychiatry and forensic medicine, together with final submissions by first-degree graduates and theses for master’s degrees and doctorates. There have also been publications on the subject resulting from research and including, for instance, frequent papers in the journal of the National Sex Education Centre (CENESEX).
18. Please indicate whether there are any plans to set up a central system for the collection of data on violence against women.
There is an automated national legal operating system with a rigorously maintained register of offences which includes data on victims and perpetrators, place where the incident occurred and geographical location. This is complemented by checks that are carried out by community working groups, with the participation in particular of FMC, in the context of preventive and social service initiatives.
Exploitation of prostitution and trafficking in women and girls
19. Sex tourism is a significant problem in a number of Latin American countries, particularly those with beaches, such as Cuba . This is a complex phenomenon that calls for strong preventive and punitive public policies. The report refers to penal legislation on pimping (CEDAW/C/CUB/5-6, para. 241). Please provide details on the preventive policies being implemented to address this phenomenon and to enforce the relevant laws.
Measures have been taken to prohibit all forms of sex tourism, and whenever there is evidence of wrongdoing in that regard on the part of officials, managers or workers in the tourism sector, strict administrative sanctions are applied, including a ban on working in that sector; in cases where an offence has been committed, the offending party is placed at the disposal of the courts.
Paragraph 2 (a) of the Penal Code in force provides for stronger penalties when the functions of the person so charged relate to the protection of public health, enforcement of law and order, education, tourism, youth leadership or efforts to combat prostitution and other forms of carnal trade.
In addition, contracts with foreign tour operators and travel agencies include regulations aimed at preventing any projection of the image of Cuban tourism as sex tourism. This is systematically monitored by overseas branches of the Ministry of Tourism and through departmental checks.
In all hotel and tourism facilities, measures are in place to prevent the practice of prostitution. Efforts are made through awareness-raising to arm workers with ethical and moral values that militate against all forms of sexual exploitation. These efforts are beginning to be stepped up as part of the training provided for tourism-sector personnel in the relevant specialized institutions and in various forms of on-the-job training.
Use of the image of women as sex objects is not allowed in promotional and advertising campaigns for tourism; as a matter of policy, family-oriented tourism is being developed. Accordingly, hotel fees are not charged for children under the age of 12; in addition, in hotels “boys’ and girls’ clubs” are being developed where children can be left in the care of specialized personnel.
20. Has any research been done on legal proceedings instituted to report, prosecute and penalize the exploitation of prostitution or on violence against sexually exploited women? What is the situation of girls and underage women in this regard?
Systematic and periodic analyses and evaluations are conducted in respect of prostitution and what it entails in terms of violence against women. A range of institutions are engaged in research on the different aspects of the phenomenon, including women’s studies departments in universities and teacher training institutes, the National Sex Education Centre, women’s and family counselling centres, the Youth Studies Centre and the Committee on Social Services and Prevention, among others.
It emerges from these studies that when cases arise they do so independently and that there are no related networks or other form of organization or association. When pimps are found to be involved they are prosecuted, as provided for in the Penal Code.
Statistics show that very few girls or underage women are affected. Differential treatment is provided for such cases: the Penal Code lays down very heavy penalties for adults who induce girls or underage women to engage in such practices.
21. In her report, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women “ recommends the dismantling of the special rehabilitation centres set up for prostitutes as the centres violate their due process rights. Other mechanisms that do not violate the rights of the prostitutes would be more appropriate ” (E/CN.4/2000/68/Add.2, para. 101). What steps have been taken in this regard?
As was fully explained to the Special Rapporteur during her visit to Cuba, prostitution does not constitute a criminal offence and for that reason no one in Cuba is punished for such behaviour.
There have been no plans to dismantle these centres as they serve the purposes of education, training and discussion. Young women with antisocial behaviour linked to prostitution are placed in rehabilitation centres in accordance with the legislation in force and with all the due process rights provided for by Cuban legislation on criminal procedure.
The programme of care in these centres includes involvement in work, programmes of study, the learning of trades, sports and cultural and recreational activities. The women are allowed to maintain links with their children and family. When they leave, they are guaranteed employment and/or the opportunity to continue their studies.
Title XI of the Penal Code defines risk status and security measures. The second section of chapter III, in particular, specifically lays down security measures to be taken prior to the commission of an offence.
Moreover, the Criminal Procedure Act (Law No. 5), in force since 18 August 1977 and amended a number of times, in this particular regard by Decree-Law No. 128 of 18 June 1991 on the procedure in the People’s Municipal Courts for the application of security measures, lays down procedural rules, thereby guaranteeing the observance of due process rights and applicable laws in criminal proceedings.
The law provides that, in the discharge of their functions, the bodies responsible for implementing this special procedure must respect the principles of humanity, equality of the parties in the hearing, legality and other principles recognized by procedural rules and by many international legal instruments, which together constitute what is known as due process.
It follows that the various acts of the parties and of the judicial body are established objectively so as to guard against arbitrariness and ensure the rule of law.
The due process rights enjoyed by individuals subject to this kind of proceeding include the following:
•The right to a defence and to the holding of hearings with all the participants, since every person must be heard and defended, regardless of the procedure in question, taking into account that these are universally recognized principles and indeed are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba in its articles 58 and 59;
•The presentation of documentary evidence and the testimony of witnesses in public hearings;
•The case file must include all reports and statements relating to the conduct of the defendant, his/her declarations and personal data and official warnings issued against him/her;
•The right of appeal before the appropriate People’s Provincial Court;
•The possibility that the Court may at any time replace the measure imposed with another, external measure linked to a place of study or work, under the responsibility of the officiating judge and civil-society organizations operating in the community.
22. Apart from the legislative provisions in place with respect to trafficking in persons (CEDAW/C/CUB/5-6, paras. 239, 243 and 244), what efforts have been made to determine the magnitude of such trafficking in Cuba and to take appropriate steps to enforce the relevant laws?
In the 10 years from 1996 to 2006, two reported cases were investigated. The persons responsible were sentenced to more than 20 years’ imprisonment; the women victims were not criminally charged.
Trafficking is rare in Cuba, as shown by these figures.
Employment and economic life
23. Please indicate whether any oversight systems are in place to ensure that Law No. 234, “ Working Women ’ s Maternity Act ” , is observed throughout the country
Monitoring mechanisms are in place to ensure that Decree-Law No. 234, “Working Women’s Maternity Act”, is observed throughout the country.
The maternity benefits granted to working women are processed through the payroll of each enterprise and are chargeable to the social security budget adopted annually by the People’s National Assembly. This budget is executed and monitored by the National Social Security Institute.
The mechanism used for this purpose consists in registering each case in the municipal branch offices, reviewing and correcting the maternity benefit payments made by enterprises to working women and reimbursing the enterprises out of the social security budget. Compliance with the provisions of the aforementioned Decree-Law is thus guaranteed.
Furthermore, the National Labour Inspection Office, a specialized organizational steering unit of the Labour Inspectorate in Cuba, attached to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, is responsible for overseeing compliance with legislation on labour, worker safety and protection and social security and for applying the established penalties.
It has subordinate branches in each province and in the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud, thus enabling the Office to discharge its responsibilities throughout the national territory.
The following are subject to labour inspection: all labour entities based in the national territory with legal capacity to establish labour relations; the cooperative sector; international economic partnerships; wholly foreign-owned enterprises; branches and agents of foreign commercial enterprises; and representatives of other foreign entities, with the exception of diplomatic missions and international organizations. Also included are self-employed workers and other persons who do not work under the management of an employer.
The decree-law establishing shared maternity leave has similarly been followed up; as of 2005, 17 Cuban fathers had availed themselves of that right.
24. It is stated that the National Statistical Office is working to address the lack of information on wages disaggregated by sex (para. 453). Please indicate what progress has been made with respect to this initiative and whether there is a mechanism to monitor the effective implementation of article 40 of the Constitution, which refers to equal pay for equal work.
The National Statistical Office has conducted research that has enabled it to evaluate the statistical instrument used to measure the average wages of men and women in the country.
This study confirms that the legal right of women workers to equal pay for equal work has been observed.
It also notes that the gender parity index for wages, as currently estimated, is about 0.96; that is to say, for every 100 pesos earned by men, women on average earn 96 pesos, according to the samples analysed. This is explained by the difficulties which many women still have as a result of absenteeism from work, due to the fact that socially they still carry the greater part of the domestic burden.
It should also be noted that women benefited especially from the wage reforms that were implemented in 2005, given that the wage increases started in sectors with a high concentration of women workers, such as education and health.
With regard to the mechanism for monitoring the effective implementation of article 40 of the Constitution, there are other provisions and decisions that guarantee equal pay for equal work. The most recent are resolution No. 11/2005, raising the minimum wage for all occupational categories to 225 pesos per month, and resolution No. 30/2005, establishing a uniform wage scale for all occupational categories. Thus, men and women in a given occupational group or category are paid the same, without sexual or any other type of discrimination.
These resolutions and all the legal instruments currently in force in this area are monitored through the National Labour Inspection System, which works through the National Labour Inspection Office and conducts inspections required by legislation on labour, worker safety and protection and social security.
25. The report indicates that personal loans are available to anyone who has a job (para. 622). What programmes are in place to provide unemployed people, especially women, with access to credit?
Under a resolution issued by the Minister-President of the National Bank of Cuba, different types of personal loans are available to anyone who has a job, as well as to men and women who are retired. The credit products in question include the following:
•Cash loans: To be used to meet family needs, purchase high-priced articles, etc;
•Investment loans: To build homes, pay for minor maintenance expenses and purchase construction materials;
•Consumer loans: To encourage the purchase of home appliances.
People who have no income or whose income is inadequate because of health problems that prevent them from working are automatically covered by the social assistance system.
An energy revolution is currently being implemented in Cuba. Over the past two years, the entire population has been encouraged to purchase energy-efficient appliances. In this context, the Bank has softened the terms for the extension of personal loans to everyone, including housewives and women who are receiving social assistance.
26. Are there any plans to establish microcredit programmes for women, especially rural women?
After the adoption in 1959 of the Agrarian Reform Act, thousands of rural men and women became landowners and were immediately granted low-interest loans to finance their production; they also received technical assistance and guaranteed markets and prices. These measures benefited both male and female farmers. It is an established principle that land can be neither seized nor used as collateral.
Individuals who are landowners or usufructuaries and who belong to a credit and service cooperative are entitled to apply for and receive credit once the relevant production and investment risk analyses have been completed. Repayment terms are mutually agreed with the Bank and may be renegotiated in the event of unexpected problems with production. These benefits are available to the 24,352 female members of credit and service cooperatives.
The State also provides members of agricultural production cooperatives, including 11,818 women, with material and technical assistance in the areas of production, marketing and social development. Collective loans are granted to the cooperatives to finance production and continue their development efforts, thus improving the living standards and quality of life of members’ families.
27. According to the report, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has spread, in particular among women who engage in prostitution (para. 497). A number of measures to address this problem are mentioned (para. 499). What impact have these measures had, and are there any plans to adopt a comprehensive HIV/AIDS eradication plan, with special programmes aimed at this group of women?
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection is rising slowly in Cuba. It is estimated that at the end of 2005, less than 0.1 per cent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 was infected, the rate being higher among males (80.4 per cent). Women account for 19.6 per cent of the infected population; in this group, only 18 per cent stated that they had practised prostitution at some time in their lives.
Consequently, women who practise prostitution do not account for the increase in the infection rate.
Cuba has systematically expanded its HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. Technical and methodological leadership is provided by the National Centre for the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS. At the grass-roots level, the Centre carries out activities targeting vulnerable groups in every province. In the case of programmes aimed at women, it works together with the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), a grass-roots organization with a long history of work on health problems.
During the period 2003-2005, the educational strategy for vulnerable groups, including the small percentage of women who said they had practised prostitution at some point in their life, was strengthened. Efforts to deal with the epidemic cover the social, cultural, economic, geographic, labour, legal and gender aspects of the problem and involve all sectors and population groups.
The epidemiological situation has been broken down by strata, thus making it possible to identify those areas of the country that have the highest infection rates and to decide where information is needed. The services provided by the Health Promotion and Education Centres have had a significant impact.
The educational strategy includes training in social communication; face-to-face, telephone and anonymous counselling; research; marketing of condoms; and peer education, especially in schools and in the community.
Guidance and advisory services have been expanded. Thus, in addition to face-to-face counselling services in polyclinics throughout the 14 provinces and telephone counselling in 11 provinces, access to diagnostic testing has been expanded through nine anonymous counselling services.
With regard to primary health care, doctors and nurses specializing in family health are working with vulnerable groups. Persons whose sexual behaviour places them at risk are identified and referred to dispensaries where they receive information and advice on behaviour modification. This has helped to delay the age of initiation into sexual relations and to encourage the use of condoms. Voluntary diagnostic testing is available from the primary to the tertiary levels of health care.
The participation of high-risk groups is an important aspect of the strategy. Training as promoters and counsellors is offered to persons interested in working as volunteers with the rest of the population through specific projects that use peer-education methodologies. Thus, activities are extended to other vulnerable groups, including women and men who practise prostitution.
In the context of social assistance programmes, a number of measures have been taken to provide priority care for HIV-positive pregnant women and children born of HIV-positive mothers. This includes full and free access to antiretroviral drugs and the interruption of breastfeeding.
28. One of the Committee ’ s recommendations in response to Cuba ’ s fourth periodic report was “ to monitor carefully the implementation of divorce by consent, and in particular any negative impact this option might have for women with regard to issues such as alimony payments, custody and maintenance of children and distribution of property ” (A/55/38, part two, para. 268). What measures have been taken in this regard?
Divorce by consent is processed through a notary’s office, and divorce for just cause is settled in the People’s Municipal Courts. All disputes arising in the course of divorce proceedings, whether these have been initiated by consent or for just cause, are dealt with by the People’s Municipal Courts as interlocutory matters.
In 2005, the Municipal Courts processed a total of 33,576 petitions for divorce on grounds of “just cause”, as well as 685 post-divorce disputes relating to changes in custody arrangements, contacts between parents and children, and alimony. There were 566 cases involving the liquidation of community property.
In addition, the proposed amendments to the Family Code improve the institution of divorce, either by consent or for just cause. The proposals eliminate the option of granting parental authority to only one parent when a divorce is processed through a notary.