Rights concerns as Laos bans LGBTQ+ beauty pageants

A Lao government order this month banning LGBTQ+ beauty pageants has sparked concern over rights violations among the community and supporters, who questioned the need for the measure, sources in the Southeast Asian country told RFA.

While Laos’s population appears to be moving towards acknowledging the rights of its LGBTQ+ community, many fear that authorities in the one-party Communist state will reject any legal changes.

“Those who run the country right now are mostly from an older generation, therefore their understanding of this issue is not up to date like people in the new generation,” another local source told RFA.

On social media, musicians, actors, and other prominent Laotians condemned the Sept. 9 order, asking why the Lao People's Revolutionary Youth Union issued it without making clear its context or aim. Historically, many pointed out, beauty pageants have not required government approval.

While Laos does not have any maj0r LGBTQ+ beauty pageants planned, the order seems to be targeting smaller events and performances that occur at festivals, temple gatherings, nightclubs, or bars, said a source familiar with the scene.

“Most people go to Thailand for the larger contests,” the source from Champassack, who declined to be named for safety reasons, told RFA.

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Behind the order is the government’s dislike of people participating in these contests abroad, said a person who helps organize trips for Lao LGBTQ+ people to participate in pageants in Thailand and other countries

“Last year, there was one Lao LGBTQ+ person who entered the pageant without notifying the government, and she said something they deemed not suitable on stage,” the source said.

The new regulations issued by the Lao People's Revolutionary Youth Union restrict participation of individuals in contests to their assigned birth gender, effectively banning transgender people in Laos from taking part in pageants.

Translated by Sidney Khotpanya. Written in English by Nawar Nemeh.

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