Trans­gen­der com­mu­nity holds beauty con­test

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - BY HLAING KYAW SOE

WHEN 19-year old Jue Jue Pan Htwa stepped to the run­way, she had just three days of train­ing be­hind her.

But that didn’t stop the young trans­gen­der Man­dalay res­i­dent from strut­ting her stuff at the Miss Nay Won Thit Beauty Con­test on Oc­to­ber 30 in Man­dalay’s Ho­tel Marvel.

“I wasn’t hop­ing for a prize,” Jue Jue Pan Htwa, who fin­ished first run­ner-up, said af­ter the com­pe­ti­tion. “But I’m so glad to have won.”

She added that she will com­pete in up­com­ing it­er­a­tions of the con­test, which is or­gan­ised by the Nay Won Thit or­gan­i­sa­tion. The group works to in­crease out­reach for vic­tims of AIDS and HIV, as well as pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­rial and anti-HIV pro­grams tar­geted for at-risk mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity.

“This is the sec­ond beauty con­test we’ve put to­gether,” said or­gan­iser Ko Maw Gyi, also known as Ko Min Thukha. “It is a pre-ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­ity for World AIDS Day.”

The day, held an­nu­ally on De­cem­ber 1, com­mem­o­rates those who have died from the virus and shows sup­port for those liv­ing with it. Ko Maw Gyi said the pageant aimed to re­duce dis­crim­i­na­tion against the LGBT com­mu­nity and pro­mote unity within its mem­bers.

“It also aims to pro­mote health ed­u­ca­tion and fundrais­ing for HIV ser­vices,” Ko Maw Gyi added.

Ac­cord­ing to UNAIDS re­search from 2015, there are an es­ti­mated 220,000 peo­ple liv­ing with HIV in Myan­mar. It is be­lieved that more than 100,000 chil­dren have been or­phaned as a re­sult of the virus, and any­where from 7600 to 12,000 peo­ple have per­ished.

Dr Than Win, who works with the Na­tional AIDS Pro­gram, said fight­ing HIV with anti-HIV pro­gram­ming and mes­sag­ing could help to cre­ate more job op­por­tu­ni­ties for LGBT-iden­ti­fy­ing peo­ple. A group that is of­ten marginalised and op­pressed by ar­chaic pe­nal codes and a tra­di­tion­ally con­ser­va­tive cul­ture, the LGBT com­mu­nity strug­gles to find em­ploy­ment through­out the coun­try.

“This [con­test] is an ac­tiv­ity that helps ed­u­cate peo­ple about HIV and AIDS,” Dr Than Win said. “Drug users, sex work­ers and LGBT mem­bers are at risk of be­ing in­fected, so this type of ac­tiv­ity should be in­creased.”

He added that en­trepreneurs who help cre­ate more sim­i­lar activities might find suc­cess where they haven’t be­fore.

For Jue Jue Pan Tra, that might mean join­ing Nay Win Thit in some ca­pac­ity go­ing for­ward.

“I will carry out health ed­u­ca­tion by join­ing with this Nay Win Thit group,” Jue Jue Pan Tra said.

‘I’m so glad to have won. [Now] I will carry out health ed­u­ca­tion by join­ing with this Nay Won Thit group.’ Jue First Jue run­ner-up­Pan Ht­waat Miss Nay Won Thit Beauty Con­test

Pho­tos: Hlaing Kyaw Soe

Con­tes­tants at the Miss Nay Won Thit Beauty Con­test strut their stuff in front of a crowd of around 600 peo­ple in Man­dalay on Oc­to­ber 30.

Re­search from UNAIDS con­ducted in 2015 found that more than 100,000 chil­dren in Myan­mar have been or­phaned by the deadly virus.

The com­pe­ti­tion pro­vided ed­u­ca­tional in­for­ma­tion about HIV and AIDS, as well as fundrais­ing for the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Myan­mar is be­lieved to have nearly a quar­ter-mil­lion HIV vic­tims.

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