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Miss Universe pageant cuts ties with Indonesian organizers over sexual abuse allegations

The Miss Universe beauty pageant has severed ties with its organizers in Indonesia after claims contestants were forced to strip naked and undergo intimate “body checks”.

Police have also launched an investigation into the allegations, while an upcoming pageant in Malaysia organized by the Indonesian franchisee has been cancelled.

This comes after six women filed complaints of sexual harassment following a selection competition Indonesia‘s representative for the international competition.

Attendees said local organizers asked them to strip down to their underwear to undergo “body checks” — allegedly for scars or cellulite — in a room filled with about two dozen people, including men.

Five of the women said they were also photographed topless during the beauty pageant, which was held in Jakarta from July 29 to August 3.

Police Director Hengki Haryadi said Sunday, “These victims felt compelled to remove their clothes and pose inappropriately for the body check, which traumatized them.”

He said officers were still examining surveillance cameras at the scene and were interviewing victims.

The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) said in a statement, “Given what we have experienced at Miss Universe Indonesia, it has become clear that this franchise is not living up to our brand standards and ethics.”

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Officials said they would make arrangements to allow the local Indonesian winner to compete in the global final later this year.

The MUO added that it is reviewing its policies “to prevent this type of behavior from occurring and to ensure that future events worldwide remain within the branding standards that we have set for all of our international franchises.”

It added: “We also want to make it very clear that no measurements such as height, weight or body measurements are required to enter a Miss Universe pageant anywhere in the world.”

Miss US R'Bonney Gabriel is crowned Miss Universe by outgoing Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu of India during the 71st Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA January 14, 2023.  REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
American R'Bonney Gabriel, who is not involved in the Indonesian scandal, is the current holder of the Miss Universe title

“New Era” for Miss Universe

Indonesian beauty company PT Capella Swastika Karya took over the license for Miss Universe Indonesia in March.

Its founder, Poppy Capella, said: “As National Director and Miss Universe Indonesia license holder, I was not involved at all and have never known, appointed, requested or admitted anyone who has played a role and participated in Miss Universe.” Indonesia 2023- Process for committing violence or sexual harassment through body control.”

The scandal is the latest controversy surrounding the long-running competition, which critics have slammed as sexist and misogynistic.

Between 1996 and 2015 the rights to the pageant were partially owned by former US President Donald Trump.

MUO's swift response to the allegations in Indonesia comes after it was acquired by Thai media tycoon and transgender rights activist Anne Jakkaphong in 2022.

Earlier this year She promised a “new era” for the competition adding, “From now on, it will be run by women, owned by a trans woman, so that all women around the world can celebrate the power of feminism.”

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