Bali has traditionally had a differing opinion with its finicky neighboring islands when it comes to matters of primp propriety. At ease in their own skin and less prudish on matters of sexuality, many Balinese villages traditionally thought little of woman going “topless” prior to WWII and Balinese daily speech is ripe with imagery and bawdy allusions that would shock Islamist neighbors just to the East and West of the island.
Similarly, in Bali male and female beauty are celebrated and oftentimes flaunted via diaphanous kebayas and half-naked danseurs chanting in the moonlight.
In Bali the locals are anything but prudish. As a result, the prospects of a bevy of world’s beauties descending when Bali acts as co-host with Jakarta of the Miss World 2013 pageant in late September 2013 is welcomed news for Bali, eager to benefit from the world-wide exposure and the chance to “eye” some of the world’s most beautiful women. Apparently, the same prospect of catwalks populated by swim-suited ladies is making people in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago more than a little uneasy.
Against this background, a minor brouhaha is brewing over the coming Miss World 2013 Contest that will attended by representatives from 120 countries in Indonesia on September 28, 2013. In keeping with the tradition with past Miss World Contests, the ladies will undergo interviews, talent contests and competitive fashion segments that see the contestants wear evening gowns, national dress and skimpy swimming suits.
What? Swimming suits? It appears that some of Bali’s neighbors to the East and West are uneasy with the prospect of bikini clad beauty queens gracing catwalks in Bali and Jakarta.
And, while Indonesia cannot prohibit the swimwear segment, some pressure is coming from more prudish quarters to supplant kebaya or batik for the more provocative bikinis.
The Jakarta Globe quotes the deputy minister of tourism and the creative economy, Sapta Nirwandar, who said the government is urging the organizers to avoid or minimize the use of bikinis in the competition, Adding, “But even if they do wear one, it should be in a closed room.”
Concern in some quarters that beautiful, scantily clad women may corrupt the hearts and minds of the nation’s youth, Sapta suggests that any swimsuit to be carried out by juries working behind closed doors.
Apparently, Sapta is trying to accommodate and appease objections tabled by conservative Muslim groups in Indonesia who claim the swimsuit segments would be offensive to traditional Indonesian values.
Abdusommad Bukhori of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI), said that as a Muslim country, Indonesia should not have anything to do with the event.
Indonesian values less narrowly defined, however, see the Balinese scratching their heads wondering what all the fuss is about.
Sapta Narwandar, meanwhile, is busily navigating a middle-course, depicting those stirring any controversy over bikinis as only trying to seek attention. After all, he points out, beauty pageants are commonplace in Indonesia.
Said Sapta: “Those who are protesting are only seeking attention. We have been staging Miss Indonesia, Putri Indonesia and other beauty pageants for a long time.”
While it’s not immediately clear if bikini’s will be banned or remain a part of the Miss World competition in Bali, Sapta is adamant that the event, in whatever format, will bring much positive publicity to Indonesia.
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