By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
LIMA, Peru –Peru’s Miss Universe Pageant broke from tradition in early November and dedicated the stage to raising awareness for gender violence. Instead of the standard answers, participants gave hard-hitting statistics about femicide that plagues their country.
The opening segment of Sunday night’s Miss Peru 2018 contest presented an unexpected set of figures to the audience. The time came for contestants to reveal their most intimate measurements on stage including bust, waist, and hip size. One woman responded, “my name is Camila Canicoba and I represent the department of Lima. My measurements are: 2,202 cases of murdered women reported in the last nine years in my country.” Each participant answered in the same way, offering horrific statistics about violence against women in place of their measurements. Another woman offered, “my measurements are: the 65 percent of university women who are assaulted by their partners.”
The pageant organizers later explained that the protest was planned. As each woman spoke, images of brutalized women and newspaper clippings about femicide killings flashed across the enormous screen. Pageant organizer and former beauty queen Jessica Newton sees the event as an opportunity to empower women. In a country with an appalling record for gender violence, the pageant is an effective way to reach the country. The program concluded with a question and answer portion where women were asked how they would change the legal code to better protect women.
Latin American beauty pageants are sometimes criticized as sexist and patriarchal in their portrayal of women. Many are quick to criticize the pageant for maintaining a swimwear segment where contests pose in bikinis. However, pageant supporters disagree. They argue that they should be treated with respect regardless of what they are wearing. Newton responds, “if I walk out in a bathing suit I am just as decent as a woman who walks out in an evening dress.”
Gender violence is an escalating problem in Peru, but awareness is growing. One of the most widely publicized cases was that of Lady Guillen. After showing photos of her bruised face that spanned all the way back to 2012, the judge decided that there was not enough evidence to prove her life was in danger. Her ex-boyfriend was released after only four years in prison. This case, along with many others, sparked the women’s rights campaign in Peru. In August, more than 50,000 people took part in a march in the capital, Lima, to protest the lenient sentences given to perpetrators of violence against women. The movement has continued under the slogan #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less).
The ultimate winner of the competition, Romina Lozano, said her “measurements were 3,114 female victims of trafficking that have been registered since 2014”. She also answered in her final question that she would “implement a database containing the name of each aggressor, not only for femicide but for every kind of violence against women”.
Accordingly, Human Rights Watch released a report that around 700 women were murdered in Peru between 2009 and 2015. Also, more than 50% of Peruvian women will experience severe domestic violence in her lifetime. These startling statistics make the #NiUnaMenos movement even more crucial.
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