First openly gay Miss Universe contestant defies nation by coming out
Swe Zin Htet, the reigning Miss Myanmar, has defied strict anti-homosexuality laws in her home country at the Miss Universe pageant this year.
The 21-year-old model and beauty queen contestant has stated that she wants to use her platform to help LGBTQ people in her home country, who face widespread discrimination and homophobia.
Htet came out during a recent interview with beauty blog, Missosology. In the interview, she stated: "I believe that not all countries allow same-sex marriage. I want the world to accept the LGBTQ+ community and their right to choose their own path and pursuit of happiness. Love is the most powerful thing and people fall in love with human beings, not gender."
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In a recent interview with PEOPLE via a translator, Htet stated: "I have that platform that, if I say that I’m a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community back in Burma."
She continued: "The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted… they are looked down on by other people and are being discriminated against."
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, Myanmar's criminal legal system embeds discrimination against LGBTQ people, with section 377 of the country's penal code criminalizing same-sex sexual behavior.
Commenting on the issue, Human Right Watch's LGBT Rights Director Graeme Reid stated: "Burma’s government has a responsibility to ensure noxious statements about gay people don’t go unchallenged."
He continued: "Unless the government speaks out against such hateful words, it could open the door to more abuse of the sort described by this minister. For the government to treat LGBT people as potential criminals should worry everyone in Burma who values their rights and liberties."