Pre-revolutionary Cuba was no paradise for gays and lesbians. There were gay bars where homosexual men could meet, but to be a maricone (faggot) was to be a social outcast.
Laws made it illegal to be gay and police targeted homosexuals for harassment. Many gay men were drawn into prostitution for largely US-based clients. In this repressive atmosphere, homosexuality was linked to prostitution, gambling and crime.
The 1959 Cuban Revolution improved living conditions for the vast majority of Cuba's people. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, Cuban homosexuals continued to face discrimination.
Between 1965 and 1968, homosexual men were incarcerated in UMAP (Military Units to Aid Production) camps where they faced brutality and attempts to turn them into "real" men. Homosexual men were arrested and imprisoned for soliciting sex in public places. Some Cubans lost their government jobs because of their homosexuality and homosexual artists were censored.
The Public Ostentation Law was enacted in the 1930s to encourage the harassment of gay people who refused to stay in the closet. In spite of the revolutionary process of re-examining old attitudes after 1959, the government did not repeal this law until 1988.
In 1980, more than 100,000 Cubans (some counter-revolutionaries, some petty criminals, some homosexuals) left Cuba in the Mariel boat-lift for the United States. Those who left were described by the government media as homosexuals.
During the 1980s, Cuba was also criticised for quarantining people with HIV. After much public discussion in Cuba, the incarceration law was lifted in 1993 and HIV patients enjoy free health care and housing, and full wages if they're able to do some work. In contrast to capitalist countries where most people with HIV struggle to afford decent medication, all HIV patients have always received free, high quality medical care in Cuba.
Why did gays and lesbians in Cuba continue to face discrimination after the...
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