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Cuban gays dance conga against homophobia

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press

Cuba_Protest_sff_embedded_prod_affiliate_56 HAVANA -- President Raul Castro's daughter led hundreds of Cuban gays in a street dance Saturday to draw attention to gay rights on the island.

Participants formed a carnival-style conga line around two city blocks to beat the of drums, accompanied by costumed stilt-walkers. Events also included educational panels and presentations for books, magazines and CDs about gay rights and sexual diversity.

"We're calling on the Cuban people to participate ... so that the revolution can be deeper and include all the needs of the human being," said Mariela Castro, an outspoken gay rights advocate who directs Cuba's officially sanctioned Sex Education Center.

Attending the program's opening, Parliament speaker President Ricardo Alarcon said that Cuba has advanced in recent years in the area of gay rights.

The communist government discriminated against homosexuals - even sending some to work camps - in the early years of the 1959 revolution led by Mariela Castro's uncle Fidel. But tolerance of homosexuality on the island has grown in recent years.

Duan Mena, 29, said was great to celebrate his homosexuality in public without fear of censure.

Caption: Activists dance during a parade marking the International Day Against Homophobia in Havana, Saturday, May 16, 2009. Prensa Latina / AP Photo

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