More than half a dozen women competing in the Miss Universe Indonesia beauty pageant have reported organisers to police over allegations of sexual harassment, their lawyer said on Tuesday.
The complaint came after the seven finalists in the contest, held in Jakarta from July 29 to August 3, were allegedly asked to strip for a “body check” two days before the pageant’s crowning ceremony.
Officials from the licence holder of Miss Universe in Indonesia, PT Capella Swastika Karya, insisted they had “to examine any scars, cellulite or tattoos on their bodies”, the contestants’ lawyer Mellisa Anggraini told AFP.
“The finalists were not aware that they would be subjected to such a procedure, as it was originally planned to be a fitting,” Ms Anggraini told AFP.
She said all 30 finalists in the pageant were subjected to the unexpected body check, and five of them had their pictures taken while topless.
The five women allege they were asked to strip to their underwear for a physical examination in a room with more than 20 people, including men.
The number of contestants coming forward with complaints could rise, Ms Anggraini said, as more finalists have given her the authority to report the incidents.
Jakarta police spokesman Trunoyudo Wisnu Andiko told reporters on Tuesday that a police report had been filed by the contestants.
Police launched a probe into the complaint using the report as “the basis for our further investigation”, he said.
The Miss Universe Organisation released a statement on Tuesday saying it had been made aware of the allegations and was looking into the matter, the ABC reports.
“Miss Universe takes allegations of sexual abuse and impropriety extremely seriously. Providing a safe place for women is the Miss Universe Organisations’ utmost priority,” the statement read.
Another sweeping statement was posted Miss Universe Indonesia and its national director Poppy Capella’s Instagram accounts, responding to “media coverage about incidents” at the pageant.
Ms Capella said organisers were “closely monitoring the situation”.
“We are actively investigating the allegations that have been reported in the mass media. We will conduct a thural (sic) investigation and review the allegations made against us,” the statement reads.
“We will promptly take the necessary stance and actions regarding this issue to clarify and ascertain the truth.”
The official Miss Universe Indonesia Instagram account has shared a number of other statements addressing many matters, including allegations that organisers received “some amounts” of money from the pageant winner.
Ms Capella denies those allegations as “baseless and false” and urged those to stop spreading the “potentially libellous” claims immediately.
None of the statements on the Miss Universe Indonesia account directly addressed the allegations of sexual harassment.
In another statement to the Miss Universe Indonesia’s official Instagram account, Ms Capella thanked those who had shared “their views, feelings and perspectives with us”.
She said every comment, whether in praise or critique, “is vital in sculpting the narrative of Miss Universe Indonesia”.
“Your comments are not mere words: they are a potent force,” she wrote.
The competition was held in Jakarta to select Indonesia’s representative for the annual Miss Universe competition, to be held in El Salvador later this year.
Judges awarded 23-year-old model and business graduate Fabiënne Nicole Groeneveld with the coveted national title.
The Indonesian iteration of the pageant was bought by Thai celebrity media tycoon and transgender rights advocate Chakrapong “Anne” Chakrajutathib – who controls the JKN Global Group Public Co Ltd – last year for $31 million.
The annual Miss Universe contest has been running since 1952, and, between 1996 and 2002, was part-owned by former US President Donald Trump until IMG Worldwide LLC bought the rights.
– with AFP