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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Belarus orders beauty contests
A beauty contest
Belarussian contestants will wear more modest attire
President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has signed a decree ordering his government to stage beauty contests around the country.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko
Lukashenko wants to "promote Belarussian fashion"
The decree says the contests should boost "the aesthetic and spiritual education of young people".

Leading government officials, including the culture and education minister, will supervise the contests which are to take place in all the regions in May and June.

However, contestants will be parading in traditional national costumes instead of swimsuits, as the decree says competitions should be held exclusively to "promote traditional national clothes and popularise Belarussian fashion".


The presidential decree has sparked protests among some women's rights activists, who say there are more important areas for public funding in a poverty-stricken country.

"Our government would do better and deal with other problems, like those of orphaned children, families with many children, or Belarussian women forced into prostitution," Valentina Svyatskaya, head of the Cassiopea women's rights organisation, told French news agency AFP.

She said that private enterprises - not the state - should finance such projects.

President Lukashenko, who has been facing harsh criticism for his authoritarian style of government, said the winner of the national beauty contest "Miss Belarus-2002" will be crowned in the capital Minsk in June.

See also:

03 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Miss Uzbekistan judged on 'inner beauty'
19 Jun 98 | Europe
Alexander Lukashenko: a profile
22 Jun 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Belarus stuck in a timewarp
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Belarus
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