Miss SA 'honoured' by boycott

2002-10-18 20:23

Johannesburg - Less than a day after being informed she would not be participating in the Miss World pageant in Nigeria, Miss South Africa Vanessa Carreira said she was "honoured" to be taking a stand against the abuse of women in that country.

Carreira, whose participation in the event was cancelled by Sun International on logistical grounds, said on Friday she had always been clear about her reluctance to participate in the event.

"From the beginning I made a statement that I didn't want to partake in a pageant that was being hosted by a country that could condone something so horrible," Carreira said in reference to the case of Amina Lawal.

Lawal, a single Nigerian mother who lives in one of the 12 Muslim states that uphold the strict Islamic Sharia code, has been sentenced to death by stoning for bearing a child out of wedlock.

Carreira, who considers Lawal's sentence "an abomination", said that under the circumstances, she was happy to give up her once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an international pageant.

"There are more important things. In this instance there is certainly an issue far more important," she said. "I'm very happy about the decision (by Sun International). I believe we stood for the rights of women and that we made a statement."

Carreira said that had she been forced by pageant organisers Sun International to attend the Miss World pageant, she would have used her attendance at the event to protest against Lawal's sentencing.

Sun International: No ethical grounds

Sun International did not cancel Carreira's appointment on ethical grounds.

According to Sue Clerck, Sun International's spokesperson, the company decided to cancel Carreira's participation because they were informed the pageant had been shifted to Dec 7 - a day before the crowning of the new Miss SA.

"The decision was taken by the board of directors of the Miss SA pageant," she said. "She can't go because the Miss World pageant is now a day before the Miss SA competition and she's contracted to be here for the competition," Clerck said.

She said the board had been awaiting the outcome of a judicial court enquiry on Lawal's case when they received the news that the pageants date had been shifted.

The news of the date change made the ethical discussion irrelevant, she explained.

Several national beauty queens - including Miss France, Miss Spain, Miss Belgium, Miss New Zealand and Miss Ivory Coast - have threatened to boycott the event unless Lawal's sentence is repealed.