Conservative Serbia gets its first Miss Transsexual

BELGRADE (AFP) - Serbia chose its first transsexual beauty contest winner on Friday at an event hailed by gay rights groups as a step forward for minority rights in the conservative eastern European country.

Nine candidates, aged 22 to 47, vied for Miss Trans Serbia 2015 in the capital Belgrade, with the title going to Milica, 22, who wore a black mini dress and high heels.

"I came here to live a new experience, but above all to have fun. Of course, I also had in mind the common struggle for our rights," she told AFP.

The event, held in a club in downtown Belgrade, was seen by activists as a victory for sexual minorities in a country where more than 80 percent of the 7.1 million people are Orthodox Christians and generally conservative on social issues.

Contestants were judged on "charm, makeup, clothes and attitude".

The seven-member jury was presided over by Ordana Mitrovic, a transsexual activist known here for publicly pleading the minority's case on the state-run RTS television last year.

Boban Stojanovic, a key figure in the organisation of Belgrade Gay Pride parades, praised the candidates' courage.

"This is a huge step forward to see people who are not activists stepping out from the shadow and having the courage to be who they are," he told AFP.

"Maybe it does no appear so, but it is an event of a great political importance."

Last September's Gay Pride parade saw several hundred people attend. A large police presence protected the marchers to avoid a repeat of violent clashes with hardline nationalist demonstrators in 2010, which led to a three-year suspension of the march.

Serbia has been under pressure to improve protection for minorities, including the LGBT community, since starting accession talks with the European Union in 2014.

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