Miss Nepal becomes Maoist government’s first casualty

August 20th, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 20 (IANS) Miss Nepal, Nepal’s oldest and best-known beauty pageant, has become the first casualty of the new Maoist government, with the organisers mulling scrapping it after the former rebels announced a Kathmandu closure and a boycott of Indian ayurvedic giant Dabur, the main sponsor of the show.The Hidden Treasure, the organiser of the pageant, said it was postponing the contest scheduled for Saturday, after the Maoist women’s wing, which has trained its sights on Miss Nepal, announced a Kathmandu Valley shutdown on the day to prevent the event.

The All Nepal Women’s Federation (Revolutionary) has also called for a boycott of all beauty products by Dabur Nepal, Dabur India’s wholly owned subsidiary in the Himalayan nation, which has been sponsoring the event for seven years to promote its Dabur Vatika range of cosmetics.

It is now doubtful if the pageant would be held at all, with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the newly sworn-in prime minister of Nepal, heading the list of signatories who signed an anti-beauty contest petition drawn up by the Maoist women’s wing.

Dozens of MPs from different parties have also signed the petition while 39 more organisations joined forces with the protesters to stop the pageant.

The women have also been pressuring Kathmandu’s premier public programme venues not to allow the contest. Due to the mounting opposition, one of the media partners of the event, Nepali daily Annapurna Post, last week announced it was abandoning the show.

In the past, the event used to be telecast live by the state-owned Nepal Television with ad revenue pouring in.

However, with the Maoists heading the information and communications ministry in the outgoing government, the TV channel developed cold feet over airing the show.

On Tuesday, the Kathmandu Jaycees, a partner of the Hidden Treasure, issued an appeal, urging the protesters not to disrupt the show.

However, neither the public appeal nor negotiations with the women’s wing produced any result.

There is a growing possibility that Dabur Nepal will jettison the contest due to the rising controversy and its fallout on the sponsor. Last week, protesters padlocked the office of Dabur Nepal in Kathmandu.

Two of the 20 shortlisted finalists have already pulled out while some of the others are also thinking of following suit.

Though there are protests over beauty pageants everywhere, including in Nepal, the opposition gathered momentum in Nepal since last year, when the Maoists came out of hiding and joined the government.

Besides losing immense time and money, the organisers say the anti-pageant protests bode ill for democracy in Nepal. Since all the contestants are adults and have the consent of their parents, the attempt to disrupt the show could be the precursor of a “cultural revolution” that will seek to impose Maoist values on the nation.

The Maoists say the contest projects women as commodities and sex symbols. However, they also say that they might allow it to be held if it is re-named Miss Advertisement Nepal, a proposal the organisers have rejected.

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