Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, has said that Cuba will later this year consider whether to recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.

According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency, Mariela Castro told the state website Cuba Si that the issue is on the agenda.

“According to the Justice Minister [Maria Esther Reus] … it is going to be discussed in the Assembly, and is on the agenda for 2012,” Castro said.

She added that she is hopeful that the Communist Party will adopt a policy that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at its January 28 national conference.

Castro, who heads the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), began introducing pro-gay reforms to the Communist Party in 2005. Her center has also mounted public campaigns to educate people about the issues surrounding homosexuality and transsexualism.

Anti-gay sentiment on the island was at its height during the “five gray years” from 1971 to 1976, when many artists and writers suspected of being homosexual were fired from their jobs, harassed, and, often, chased into exile. In a 1965 interview, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro called homosexuality a “deviation” that “clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist must be.”