In some beauty pageants around the world, contestants are expected to announce their body measurements, including waist and bust size, to the audience. But on Sunday, contestants in the Miss Peru 2017 competition cited different numbers — specifically, ones that reflected violence against women in their country.
As the contestants stood before the crowd clad in matching sparkly mini dresses, they each listed off a statistic regarding gender-based violence. It is estimated that in 2016 alone, 6,000 women in Peru were victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“My name is Camila Canicoba and I represent the department of Lima. My measurements are: 2,202 cases of femicide were reported in the last nine years in my country,” said one contestant.
“My name is Juana Acevedo and my measurements are: more than 70 per cent of women in our country are victims of street harassment,” stated another.
“My name is Luciana Fernández and I represent the city of Huánuco, and my measurements are: 13,000 girls suffer sexual abuse in our country,” said another.
While the move may have taken audience members by surprise, it was a co-ordinated effort with pageant organizers to shed light on the problem of violence against women that is sweeping Latin America. In 2015, the #NiUnaMenos (not one less) movement launched in Argentina to protest the growing number of femicides in the country. According to UN Women, of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide, 14 are from Latin America and the Caribbean.
During the swimsuit portion of the competition, the contestants stood in front of a backdrop that depicted stories of murdered and abused women that ran in newspapers. The central image was of Lady Guillen, a dancer and model who was kidnapped and beaten by her ex-boyfriend in 2012.
In the last segment of the pageant, when contestants are typically asked innocuous questions about bettering the world, the women were each asked how they would change the laws to combat violence against women. It was an especially poignant question considering the event that is largely cited for sparking the #NiUnaMenos movement: security camera footage that showed a man dragging his girlfriend by her hair across the floor of a hotel lobby. He was given a suspended sentence and fined roughly $2,000.
And although some might find a beauty pageant, especially one that includes a swimsuit portion, a contradictory forum for discussing women’s rights, Newton had this to say: “Women can walk out naked if they want to. Naked. It’s a personal decision. If I walk out in a bathing suit, I am just as decent as a woman who walks out in an evening dress.”