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KATHMANDU (Reuters Life!) - Scores of Maoist activists protested outside the venue of the controversial "Miss Nepal" contest on Thursday, saying the beauty pageant was an insult to women.
The former civil war rebels chanted "you can't expose the women" as they sat on the street outside a high security army club in the heart of Kathmandu.
Many protesters waved black flags in protest as 15 young Nepali contestants, wearing multi-colored shining saris, took center stage on the catwalk.
"The contest is a forum where women are used by companies to popularize and sell their products," said Manu Humagain, head of an anti-pageant Maoist panel. "It is a blow to the dignity of the women. We oppose it."
On the other hand, the contestants said the event helped them forge a "separate identity" for themselves.
The winner will represent the young Himalayan republic at the Miss World contest in Johannesburg in December, organizers said.
Riot police stood guard outside the club but there was no violence and no arrests were made, police said.
Organizers said they were making the event, beamed out live on state-run Nepal Television, a low-key affair in view of the Maoists' concerns.
The Miss Nepal contest has been running for 15 years, though organizers canceled last year's show because of Maoist protests.
The Maoists waged civil war from 1996 until a 2006 peace deal.
They led a coalition government after a surprise election victory, but the Maoist chief Prachanda resigned as prime minister in May after just eight months in office in a row over the sacking of the country's army chief.
Editing by Matthias Williams and Jerry Norton