After Miss Nepal, it's Miss Gay's turn at controversy
May 7, 2007 - 12:39:43 PM
Kathmandu, May 7 - Less than a month after the controversial staging of the Miss Nepal pageant, the country's gay community has held a Miss Transgender contest - in a double defiance of the Maoist opposition to beauty pageants as well as homosexuality.
Wearing an embroidered and sequinned red sari, 21-one-year-old Ria, also known as Raju Gurung, wore the Miss Transgender crown at a gay pageant Sunday in Pokhara city - a popular tourist destination.
Though initially over a dozen people signed up to take part in the contest organised by NGO Sunaulo Bihani, many of them backed out at the last minute due to family pressure and the social stigma surrounding homosexuality in Nepal, a local daily said.
The pageant consisted of an introduction round, a talent contest and a question-answer session.
Ria, who professed a penchant for dancing and swimming, currently works for the organising NGO.
In the past, there have been gay pageants and gay ramp shows in Kathmandu organised by Blue Diamond Society - Nepal's only group dedicated to fighting for the rights of sexual minorities.
This year, after the Maoist guerrillas joined the government, the Society alleged that rebel cadres were cracking down on homosexuals. Two women were also 'jailed' by the Maoists for their involvement.
The women's wing of the Maoists last month created a furore when they tried to ban the Miss Nepal contest - Nepal's oldest and most prestigious beauty pageant.
Though Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who belongs to the Maoist party, said he was against such shows on principle, the pageant was held despite mounting opposition by Maoist women and other civil organisations.
Nepal's gay community, once afraid to come out of the closet, began demanding their rights after the Blue Diamond Society began lobbying both at home and abroad for gay rights.
This year, the community got a major breakthrough when a team of government officials in southern Nepal issued a citizenship certificate to a gay man, describing him as a transgender in the document instead of the earlier formal classification of either male or female.
Last month, the community also met Nepal's minister for women, children and social welfare as well as the parliament speaker to advocate the inclusion of pro-gay policies.
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