One 'brave contestant' set to take Miss Tibet's crown

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The Independent Online

The fourth annual Miss Tibet competition has been thrown into turmoil after all but one of the contestantspulled out, resulting in a walkover for the winner.

The contest, in the Indian Himalayan resort of Dharamsala, home to many exiled Tibetan leaders, has struggled to find its feet in the face of staunch opposition from conservative Buddhists. Many monks consider that the beauty competitions, in which the participants wear bathing-suits, violate Tibetan Buddhism and culture

After seven young women pulled out at the last moment, the contest's organiser Lobsang Wangyal said that the name of the "lone brave contestant" would be kept secret until the gala on 8 October. It is the second time in the contest's brief history that a walkover has been granted.

Mr Wangyal insisted that the pageant would still go ahead. "A time will come soon when the conservative Tibetan society will break out of its traditional shackles and accept such shows with open arms," he said.

"The girls also have to give a lecture on Tibetan culture, history and current affairs. It is a Tibetan beauty pageant, not aping Western culture." The winner will get a tiara and a cheque for 100,000 rupees (£1,288).

Conservative Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan government-in-exile oppose the contest. A spokesman for the exiled leaders, Thupten Samphel, said: "Exhibiting of the female body in this manner is against Tibetan Buddhism and culture."

Commentators suspect the lone woman's name is not being disclosed by the organisers as pressure is also being exerted on her to opt out of the contest.

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