Russian lawmakers ban children's beauty pageants

Saint Petersburg - Lawmakers in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg on Wednesday passed legislation banning children's beauty pageants as psychologically damaging to their participants.

The legislation was initiated by controversial lawmaker, Vitaly Milonov, who was a prominent backer of a law banning the "propaganda" of gay relationships to minors.

"Taking part in such contests crushes a child's psyche," Milonov told AFP.

"I think people who hold such contests should be kept away from children. I grew up in a normal era and then no one compared children by their outer appearance, like dogs."

He estimated that around 3 000 children's beauty pageants are held every year in Russia, with participants aged from four years old.

Some involve "a catwalk show in swimsuits", he complained.

The law says that beauty pageants "could cause harm to the health and/or physical, intellectual, spiritual and moral development of those under 16".

The local law introduces a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($28 000) for the organisers of such contests.

Milonov, a Saint Petersburg lawmaker for ruling United Russia party, is an influential crusader for conservative values who has sparred with British actor Stephen Fry over gay rights.

He introduced a law banning "gay propaganda" in Saint Petersburg in 2012 before a similar national law was signed by President Vladimir Putin last summer.

The legislation is designed to protect children from "propaganda" of paedophilia and LGBT rights.

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