India hosts its first ever transsexual beauty pageant

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Indy Lifestyle Online

More than 100 hopefuls vied Saturday for the title of India's most beautiful transsexual at the country's first such pageant for members of the marginalised community, an organiser said.

The event in the southern city of Chennai was unique in a country where transsexuals live on the fringes of society, drawing 120 contenders between the ages of 20 and 35 from across India, A.J. Hariharan told AFP.

Hariharan is founder secretary of the Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO), which put on the contest and works for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Chennai.

Kareena, a 25-year-old model from the western financial hub Mumbai walked away with top honours, while 23-year-old Romi, a beautician from the northeastern state of Manipur, was second.

Local favourite Padmini, 25, a dance instructor, bagged third place.

Besides tiaras for the winners of the overall "Miss India" title, crowns were also handed out to victorious contestants in the "Miss Beautiful Hair," "Miss Beautiful Eyes" and "Miss Beautiful Skin" categories.

"We had a meeting of the transgender community some months ago where we discussed various events to bring community members into society," Hariharan said.

After rejecting several proposals including sporting events, "everyone unanimously supported the idea of a national-level beauty pageant," he said.

"We thought it would create an opportunity for the transgender community to showcase their skills, create a platform to address the problems they face - discrimination, marginalisation and misconception."

The pageant is the latest in a series of recent attempts to break down barriers.

In November, eunuchs - men who have been castrated - claimed victory in a long-standing campaign to be listed as "others," distinct from males and females, on electoral rolls and voter identity cards.

And in July, Delhi High Court decriminalised gay sex between consenting adults by declaring a colonial-era ban on homosexuality unconstitutional.