Miss Universe contestants shocked viewers by teaming up to make a very political statement

It’s time to take a stand against gender violence

(Image credit: Rex)

It’s time to take a stand against gender violence

With the 2017 Miss Universe competition fast-approaching (put the November date in your diaries everyone), countries across the globe are going through the final preparation stages, the most important being the selection of the beauty queen that will go to Las Vegas to represent their country.

During Peru’s televised audition process featuring the 23 beauty queen hopefuls, viewers were left shocked when the show took a very political twist.

Breaking from tradition, the show wasn’t about light entertainment this year, with contestants and organisers instead using their air time to highlight the shocking reality of gender-based violence in Peru.

Instead of reciting their body measurements like asked, the 23 contestants took it in turns to recite a roll call of gender-based violence statistics.

‘A girl dies every 10 minutes due to sexual exploitation in Peru,’ recited one contestant, while another followed with, ‘More than 70% of women in the country are victims of street harassment.’

And the politics didn’t stop there - there were more breaks from tradition as the pageant contestants were quizzed not on lightweight ambitions and hobbies (like every year previously), but instead about women's rights, asked what they would do about violence in Peru.

The winner and beauty queen chosen to represent Peru, Romina Lozano, had outlined plans ‘to implement a database containing the name of each aggressor, not only for femicide but for every kind of violence against women.’ She continued: ‘In this way we can protect ourselves.’

Gender based violence is a pressing issue in South America, and according to the statistics, Peru ranks as second only to Bolivia for the worst record of violence against women in the continent.

This is something it seems that the organisers of the pageant are just as keen to highlight as the contestants, joining in highlighting the shocking facts.

‘Unfortunately there are many women who do not know, and think they are isolated cases,’ explained the contest organiser, Jessica Newton, in an interview with the AFP news agency. ‘I think that the fact that you are looking at your regional representative, at the queen of your department, giving open and real figures about what is happening in our country is alarming.’

In fact, Newton went on to detail how five of the original 150 contestants in Peru’s contest had been victims of violence, and in some cases rape.

This, she implored, is why we need to open a bigger conversation about this shocking issue.

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.