Cambodia to host Miss Landmine amputee beauty pageant says founder
Cambodia will play host to Miss Landmine 2009, the controversial beauty pageant's Norwegian organizer said Sunday. ( dpa )
Miss Landmine parades beautiful female amputee landmine victims on the catwalk as they compete to win prosthetic limbs.
Miss Landmine Angola 2008 was crowned the event's inaugural winner this month, and the pageant's founder, artist Morten Traavik, says he has his heart set on Cambodia as Miss Landmine's next stop.
"We are in principle all set up and ready to go, we already have candidates in place," he said by email.
Despite backing from donors including the European Union, the pageant has drawn howls of protest from rights activists and feminists, who brand it colonialist, racist, sexist and exploitative.
Traavik has admitted that some international aid agencies have also labeled it "a freak show" but denies the allegations, saying it raises landmine awareness and empowers female amputee participants.
The women receive glamorous photo shoots at resorts and high-end hotels and a Miss Landmine fashion magazine modelled on Vogue is also in the pipeline, according to the organization's website.
Despite a ban on beauty contests invoked by Prime Minister Hun Sen in September, 2006, Traavik said he has Cambodian government support.
State Cambodian Mine Action Authority secretary-general Sam Sotha expressed his "appreciation and support of Landmine Girl," in a signed letter.
Cambodia remains one of the most heavily mined nations in the world after a 30-year civil war, with more than 6 million mines still peppering the country, according to officials.
But critics remain unimpressed with Traavik's approach.
"If you are wondering just how low some people will sink this is just about it," respected feminist and online author Sokari Ekine wrote on her website Black Looks.
Bloggers have also had a field day with the idea, with internet satirists caustically suggesting the theme could inspire further tasteless spinoffs from Miss Holocaust to Miss Ebola Virus.