> Published Friday, March 24, 2000, in the Miami Herald
> U.N. expert: U.S. may be denying Cuban women
> human rights
> GENEVA -- (AP) -- The U.S. economic boycott of Cuba may
> be affecting the human rights situation of Cuban women and
> even leading to domestic violence, a United Nations expert
> said in a report released today.
> Radhika Coomaraswamy, a U.N. expert on violence against
> women, said the sanctions ``have a significant impact on the
> social and economic situation of Cuban women'' and called on
> Washington to lift the boycott.
> Coomaraswamy added that women have generally done well
> since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, although she expressed
> concerns about some laws and attitudes.
> The Sri Lankan investigator, who visited Cuba for six days last
> June, said she was the first U.N. human rights specialist allowed
> to go there by the Cuban government.
> In her 26-page report to the 53-nation Human Rights Commission,
> she said she hoped the visit would help future cooperation.
> Coomaraswamy said the U.S. embargo has led to a lack of medicines
> in hospitals and that women were suffering hardships at home which
> could lead to domestic violence.
> There was no immediate response from U.S. officials, but Secretary of
> State Madeleine Albright told the commission Thursday that Cuba
> continues to ``suppress dissent, deny free speech, outlaw free
> assembly, and harass human rights advocates and others who
> seek independence of action and thought.''
> U.N. rights experts have consistently criticized the U.S. embargo
> while at the same time criticizing the human rights situation in Cuba.
> In her report, Coomaraswamy said that although the United Nations
> had often expressed concerns about Cuba's rights record, the
> revolution had been a ``turning point'' for women.
> Women represent 58 percent of university graduates and 60 percent
> of judges are female. In some fields, such as medicine, authorities are
> considering setting university quotas for men.
> ``Women's liberation has progressed in the professional sphere, in
> urban life and in rural areas,'' she said.
> But she expressed concern about women suffering domestic violence
> and said she did not believe claims that there was no sexual
> harassment in the workplace.
> She also called on the government to dismantle ``rehabilitation centers''
> where prostitutes can be sent for up to four years even though
> prostitution is not illegal.
> Last year the Human Rights Commission narrowly voted to voice
> concern ``at the continued violation of human rights and fundamental
> freedoms in Cuba, such as freedom of expression, association and
> assembly and rights associated with the administration of justice.''
> The Czech Republic and Poland have drafted a similar resolution for this
> year's meeting.