Public Outcry Against New Anti-Trans Pageant Rule in Laos

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A rainbow mural adorns the wall of the American Center in Vientiane Capital.

A notice issued by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union effectively banning transgender participants from beauty pageants has provoked a public backlash in Laos.

The notice, issued on 9 September by the Office of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union, sets out new rules for participation in beauty pageants. Under the new regulations, those wishing to hold a pageant or participate in a pageant either in Laos or abroad must first seek authorization from the Lao Youth Union.

Among the rules set out in the notice is a section stating that beauty pageants including participants who are not “true men or women” will not be authorized by the Lao Youth Union under any circumstances.

Members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community in Laos have called for equal rights after the notice appeared on social media yesterday. 

Hundreds of celebrities and organizations show their support for the LGBTQ+ community in Laos by changing their Facebook profile picture overnight (Photo: muan.la)
Hundreds of celebrities and organizations show their support for the LGBTQ+ community in Laos by changing their Facebook profile picture overnight (Photo: muan.la)

The wording of the notice has caused a massive public backlash across social media, with thousands of Facebook users adding a rainbow-themed “Pride 2022” Facebook frame to their profile pictures overnight.

In addition to the rule prohibiting transgender pageants and participants, the notice also states that pageant candidates may not use a vacation as a pretext for entering a pageant without the permission of the Lao Youth Union.

According to the notice, organizations or individuals who fail to comply with the new rules will be penalized in accordance with the law.

The Lao Youth Union is a mass organization dedicated to mobilizing young people across the country in order to contribute to national growth. 

Yet many critics have taken to social media saying that the new rules have reduced opportunities for young LGBTQ+ people in Laos. 

The organization has yet to make a further statement on the issue.