A beauty pageant is one of the last places you would expect to see a feminist protest. But that is exactly what happened during the Miss Perú 2018 pageant, when the contestants took the opportunity to draw attention to the extreme levels of violence against women in their country, according to El País. In the portion of the pageant in which they would usually repeat their body measurements to the camera and judges, all 23 women gave statistics about femicide. Then, in the bathing suit section, images of newspaper headlines about missing and murdered women were projected onto the screen behind the contestants.
Their protest was particularly subversive considering the objectification and imposition of Eurocentric standards that beauty pageants usually reinforce in places like Peru. "My name is Camila Canicoba, and I represent the department of Lima," said the first contestant. "My measurements are: 2,202 cases of femicides reported in the last nine years in my country." The next woman stepped up to the microphone, "My name is Karen Cueto, and I represent Lima. My measurements are: 82 femicides and 156 attempts so far this year." Representing the different departments and regions of Peru, the contestants described the levels of physical and psychological violence, sexual abuse, harassment and sexual exploitation that women and girls suffer daily.
The protest was organized with support from the event, which also gave the women an opportunity to discuss the issue during the question and answer section. Romina Lozano, who was later announced as the winner of the pageant, was asked how to fight the murders of women. "I propose to create a database with the data of each aggressor, not just femicide, and to be able to protect ourselves," she said. In 2016, there were 124 femicides — gender-based murders of women — and 258 attempted murders in Peru, according to figures from the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru, but actual figures are likely to be much higher.
Image via Youtube
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Molly McLaughlin is a travel and culture writer currently based in Mexico City. Her work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet, Refinery29 and Ms. Magazine. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @mollysgmcl.