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Report: Cuba Gender Equality Good, But Threatened

The report also recommended that the United States engage with Cuban women and society at large, including opening U.S. markets to Cuban goods.

Stephens' center is generally sympathetic to Havana and actively lobbies for changes in U.S. policy toward the island, including the lifting of the 51-year economic embargo.

Overall the report praised Cuba on gender equality especially compared with the rest of the region, noting advances in indicators such as universal literacy, low maternal death rates, high representation of women in higher education, the enshrinement of equal rights in the constitution and legal guarantees in the family code.

Still, it noted that Cuba has been criticized both internally and externally on domestic violence and it warned that cutbacks in the health and education systems potentially threaten gender equality if not handled properly.

It also suggested that a glass ceiling still exists to a certain extent, saying that while Cuban women constitute 53 percent of workers with graduate degrees, they occupy just 34 percent of executive positions. Fewer than 40 percent of women are employed, and they earn less than half of what men make, the study found.

"This is especially dispiriting to the highly trained women who emerge year after year from Cuban colleges, yet remain unable to fully employ their talents," the report said.

Castro, other officials and intellectuals have often stressed the importance of making Cuban society and government more inclusive of women, people of Afro-Cuban descent and youth.

In late February a new parliament formed with women making up 42 percent of its membership, continuing a gradual upward trend over the years. Thirty-nine percent were black or mestizo.

Castro also convened a new ruling Council of State with two women among its five vice presidents.

Sonia Delgado, a 52-year-history teacher in Havana, said she is grateful that women in Cuba have rights to equal education, equal pay for equal work and free contraception and abortion.

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