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Cuba performing state-sponsored sex-change surgery
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Cuba performing state-sponsored sex-change surgery

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Cuba has begun performing state-sponsored sex-change operations after the government lifted the longtime ban on the procedure in 2007, President Raul Castro's daughter said on January 19.

A sexologist and Gay rights advocate, Mariela Castro runs the Center of Sex Education, which prepares Transgendered people for sex-change operations.

On January 19, Mariela told reporters during the Fifth Cuban Conference on Sexual Education, Orientation and Therapy that surgeries began in 2008, but would not specify exactly how many have been performed or how much they cost the government.

She said Cuban doctors, working with Belgian counterparts, have gotten to "less than half" of the 30 islanders approved to undergo the procedure.

In 1979, Cuba identified 122 people who wanted to have sex changes. Nine years later, Cuban doctors performed the first successful operation, but subsequent sex-change procedures were prohibited.

Cuba is a developing country with economic problems. According to Mariela, the operations are covered by Cuba's universal health care system, even though some have protested that decision because of general opposition to the procedure or due to its high cost.

"We schedule a certain number per year based on economic circumstances," she said, adding that sex changes are not offered to foreigners who travel to Cuba for medical care due to budget constraints.

Mariela says she plans to prepare a letter to the leadership of Cuba's Communist Party which urges authorities to draft a measure directing that homosexuals not be barred from joining the party.

The decree would be similar to one approved in the 1990s which expressly allowed Cubans of all religious affiliations to join the party.

Although Gays are not technically banned from the Communist Party, Mariela believes such a measure which embraces them would help to cement their role in politics.

In addition, Mariela said her center would continue to push the single-party government to rewrite civil codes and recognize same-sex unions, but not Gay marriage.

However, she said the group has stopped pushing for same-sex couples to be allowed to adopt children, saying that Cuba's legal code provides no means for such a move.

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