Thursday, April 24, 2008

Miss Landmine Survivor beauty pageant draws controversy

The Guardian reports that after the first successful Miss Landmine competition in Angola, the creators plan to take the pageant to Cambodia in 2009.

"Both countries rank alongside Afghanistan as among the world's most heavily mined places, with a correspondingly high number of victims who suffered the terrible effects of the weapons left festering after years of conflict," according to The Guardian.

"It was the plight of the victims that prompted a Norwegian theatre and film director, Morten Traavik, to come up with the challenging - some would say tasteless - contest to spotlight the ongoing tragedy," The Guardian reports.

Augusta Urica, 31, and Maria Restino Manuel, 26, were joint winners who were crowned Miss Landmine 2008. They won a state-of-the-art prosthetic limb to replace a leg lost to a landmine.

More than 80,000 people in Angola have been disabled by landmines after a 20-year civil war.

Kek Galabru, the president of the Phnom Penh human rights group Licadho, doesn't think Cambodia will accept this kind of beauty pageant that she says "shines a light on tragedy."

"No doubt awareness is important," she said. "But for me this is using the victims. For them it is still very painful. But they're saying 'look at me, I'm still beautiful, even though I've lost my leg.' We don't need to raise awareness in this questionable way.

"I'm sure there'll be a lot of resistance from the Cambodian people. I can hear it now: 'What? A contest of the suffering?'"