During this year’s Miss Peru pageant, the 23 contestants made a collective decision to take a stand against the violence faced by women in their country, and around the world.
Rather than provide their measurements, as is common in pageants, they decided to share information on gender-based violence.
One by one, they introduced themselves and then voiced some staggering statistics: 2,202 cases of femicide were reported in the last nine years in Peru, while more than 25 percent of girls and teenagers are abused in their schools, they said.
Organizers of the competition, headed by former beauty queen and pageant director Jessica Newton, decided to break with the tradition of announcing the measurements of their waist, hip and bust on stage. Instead they raised awareness about the situation for women in Peru.
“I knew it would be very controversial, but I knew that it was time to raise the voice of justice and fight,” contestant Camila Canicoba said.
When asked how this protest came together, Miss Peru contestant Juana Acevedo said it wasn’t easy.
“Some of us said it’s going to look okay. It’s going to look good. And then you start to thinking. It’s going to be different,” she said. “It is going to tell this country that we are here and we are going to talk about the people that sometimes didn’t feel brave to talk. Those that didn’t go to police, [make a] statement and announce their suffering. So, we are here to talk for these people.”
The impact was not only national, but global — the hashtag #MisMedidasSon (meaning, “My measurements are”) went viral and brought the world into the conversation.
In a list released by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, Lima ranked fifth among the megacities most dangerous for women.
“People from different parts of the world write to me [on my official Facebook page] and tell me their experiences about sexual abuse and femicide,” Canicoba said.
Because of the international attention following the competition, the Miss Peru competition aired again in Peru on Nov. 4. Reactions from Peruvians, though, have been mixed.
“I read the comments that girls say, some are in favor,” Acevedo recalls. “But there are some girls that are criticizing. They say, ‘You are in a bikini; why do you say that?’”
“I want people to remove the stereotype of what beauty queens are,” Canicoba said. “We are strong women and determined to go out and fight. Miss Peru is a big platform which helps [us] to go out and show what each one wants to transmit.”
The women are planning to continue raising awareness and calling for change for the women in Peru. A women’s march in Lima is scheduled for Nov. 25. The #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) movement that started in Argentina has now made its way to Peru.
“The situation is very hard in our country because we live in a place where everybody sees it, but they never say something or help,” said Acevedo.
During the pageant, Acevedo said that 70 percent of women in the country are victims of street harassment. In an interview, she recalled her own experience with harassment.
“When I walk to the bus stop, there are men that talk to me and try to touch me. They come very close to me. It is very uncomfortable for me,” she said. “What I see, it’s real. The way we are living here, it has been violent for women since always.”
Incidents of violence against women are common in Peru, like one from an Oct. 8 video of a woman being dragged by her boyfriend through the streets of Miraflores. Although an arrest was made, this was not an uncommon scene.
This year’s Miss Peru winner, Romina Lozano, also said she was a victim of street harassment, when two armed men attempted to steal her belongings and even was victimized physically by one of the men.
The #NiUnaMenos march on Nov. 25 is expected to draw more than 50,000 people, including contestants from the Miss Peru competition.
“Most of the women are going to be together and start to walk in different streets in Lima and telling the government they are against the violence against women,” Acevedo said.
“I am going to be there, and I hope most of the others will be there. ... This is not over. This is just the beginning.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Romina Lozano was heading to the Miss Universe competition. Due to the timing, instead, Prissila Howard is currently in preparation for the Miss Universe competition set for Nov. 26th at The Axis in Las Vegas.