Generally speaking, beauty pageants aren't quite bastions of gender equality. While they can be empowering and fun, the fact remains that any event that requires women to stand onstage and list their body measurements for judgment has, er, troubling implications. On Sunday, however, pageant contestants in Peru listed facts about women's rights instead of measurements, highlighting the country's problem with gender violence, and later that night, newspaper clippings of well-known murders or assaults were projected in the background. I don't know about you, but my feminist heart is all aflutter right now.
It's a common practice for beauty pageant contestants to line up and list their bust, waist, and hip measurements for the crowd, but on Sunday, participants in Miss Peru 2018 broke with tradition during that particular segment. Instead of their bra sizes, they gave out statistics about gender violence in the South American country, from the number of women who have been trafficked to the percentage of women who have been harassed on the streets.
First, according to BuzzFeed, each woman introduced herself and the district she represented. She would then follow this up with a fact about violence against women in Peru.
"I represent the constitutional province of Callaomy and my measurements are: 3,114 women victims of trafficking up until 2014," said Romina Lozano, the woman who was crowned Miss Peru 2018 later that night. Camila Canicoba, Miss Peru Lima, informed the audience that there were "2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country." According to Luciana Fernández, Miss Peru Huánuco, 13,000 girls experience sexual abuse in Peru; Melina Machucha stated that more than 80 percent of women in her hometown of Cajamarca suffer from violence. The list went on and on, showing just how widespread the problem has become.
According to BuzzFeed, violence against women was a central theme of the event. During the swimsuit portion of the pageant, organizers projected news articles about famous cases of murder and assault. In the final round, contestants were asked how they would change laws to better protect women.
According to the United Nations database, 36 percent of Peruvian women — that's about one in three — have experienced domestic violence at least once in their lives, and 12 percent experienced it within the last year. Human trafficking is a problem, particularly among indigenous women and girls. Meanwhile, the number of women murdered because of their gender in the country has grown to the point where The Guardian described it as an "epidemic of femicide," with a new high-profile case landing in the headlines on a regular basis. Last year, more than 50,000 people, including Peru's president and first lady, marched in cities across Peru in protest of a judicial system that women's rights activists say is too lenient toward male assailants.
The protest followed in the footsteps of similar events in other Latin American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, where gender-based violence and harassment is a widespread problem. Many activists have adopted the slogan #NiUnaMenos, or #NotOneLess, to call for an end to violence against women.
Speaking to BuzzFeed, Miss Peru 2018's organizer, Jessica Newton, chose to bring attention to Peruvian femicide because she felt it was her duty. "Everyone who does not denounce and everyone who does not do something to stop this is an accomplice," she told the web site.
Say what you will about the complicated relationship between beauty pageants and feminism, but Miss Peru 2018 is doing its part to end violence against women in the country. For that, both the contestants and organizers deserve a round of applause.