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As in most other places around the world, the demands of family - caring for children, keeping house, obtaining and preparing food for meals - fall predominantly on women. In the case of Cuba this situation is made worse by the distortions of the communistic economy:
People's motivation to work waned as there was little to work for. Money came to have little meaning in the legal economy - but not by design as, according to Marxism, it was supposed to do in a utopian communist society. There simply was little to buy through officially sanctioned channels, and the government provided most social needs gratis or for minimum fees. Under the circumstances, material as well as moral incentives became ineffective in the legal economy. The burdens of sheer survival and transport difficulties also led people to miss work with increased regularity, above all women on whom the burdens fell most. Some families spent the equivalent of half an official work week in shopping and other lines.
Women are thus being denied equality by many of the very policies that were meant help all Cubans regardless of gender or socio-economic status. Castro's laws on Marxian economic policy, broad social welfare programs, and continual harangues on revolution and equality, have done nothing to change traditional factors in male/female relationships. As women are forced by society to look after their children and household they, at the same time, forced to work longer and harder than many men. They also have more responsibility and less leisure time, and time for personal activities. Cuban law and policy, in fact, add new dependencies to traditional ones, forcing many women to become attached to state welfare programs, or to go outside the law and expose themselves to all the risks that such conduct brings.
In a desperate drive to bring employment to all - a drive that was intensified by the American embargo - Cuba faced a dilemma. Everyone needed to be employed, but there were not enough jobs for all. Women disproportionately faced job discrimination - when push came to shove, the better jobs went to the men.
Again, Cuba's women were losing out in the fight for equality. Gender was indeed a determining factor, but a negative one.
Still, Fidel Castro sought to transform relations between the sexes by redefining the dynamic between wives and husbands. The Family Code was intended explicitly to re-make the opportunities available for women and to transform their place in society:
The implementation of the Family Code is the hub of a direct and massive confrontation with the male-chauvinist standards and the basis of the division of labor between the sexes. Its objective is to liberate the energies of women so that they may direct those energies toward the various areas of social activity, thereby achieving the personal self-realization that formerly was forbidden to women.
Though women are still challenged by certain traditional ideas regarding who is responsible for children and the maintenance of the household, it is the express policy of the Cuban Government under Castro, to allow women the same sort of freedom of choice as men. In Cuba, in contrast to France, women face problems as members of a different kind of group - the socialist Marxist group to which all Cubans must belong. It is not Cuban citizenship per se that is the issue but rather what sort of economic system is placed upon that Cuban system. Women continue to suffer a sort of second class status because of the failure of that system to provide the necessary jobs and prosperity that would be required for its success sin the face of still lingering social attitudes that give them the additional burdens of children and family.
Gender Equality is treated differently in France and Cuba, though ultimately the goals are broadly similar. Both nations possess a mindset in which there is no real distinction between the overall group of the nation, on the one hand, and the citizen on the other. Both have tried to remake their societies through revolutionary changes. France's entire "citizen system" is ultimately a product of a long ago revolution, while Cuba continues to labor under the demands of its much more recent Marxist revolution. France has, until quite recently, failed to address obvious disparities between the genders largely because France itself has hidden behind the "one citizen" facade. Only through the entry of women into the corridors of power have other opinions brought the truth to national attention. Laws are now being introduced, but slowly. In Cuba, in contrast, Fidel Castro quickly attempted, through means of legislation, to eliminate every possible trace of discrimination. Nonetheless, the overriding emphasis on Marxist economic development has failed to create the prosperity necessary that would make possible the elimination of many traditional assumptions about gender, thereby placing extra burdens on Cuba's women. The economy must catch up with society's goals.
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