The Miss Universe beauty pageant has cut ties with its organisers in Indonesia following claims that 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 – arranged by the Indonesian franchisee holder – has been cancelled.
It comes after six women filed sexual harassment complaints following a contest to pick Indonesia‘s representative for the international competition.
The contestants say local organisers asked them to strip to their underwear to undergo “body checks” – supposedly for scars or cellulite – in a room with about two dozen people present, including men.
Five of the women said they were also photographed topless during the pageant, which was held in Jakarta from 29 July to 3 August.
Police director Hengki Haryadi said on Sunday: “These victims felt forced to take off their clothes and pose inappropriately for body checking that traumatised them.”
He said officers were still examining surveillance cameras from the scene and would interview the victims.
The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) said in a statement: “In light of what we have learned took place at Miss Universe Indonesia, it has become clear that this franchise has not lived up to our brand standards and ethics”.
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Officials said they would make arrangements for the local Indonesian winner to still compete in the global final later this year.
The MUO added that it was reviewing its policies “to prevent this type of conduct from occurring and to ensure that future events worldwide remain within the brand standards that we have set out for all of our international franchises”.
It added: “We also want to make it extremely clear that there are no measurements such as height, weight or body dimensions required to join a Miss Universe pageant worldwide.”
‘New era’ for Miss Universe
Indonesian beauty company PT Capella Swastika Karya took over the licence for Miss Universe Indonesia in March.
Its founder Poppy Capella said: “I, as the National Director and as the owner of the Miss Universe Indonesia licence, was not involved at all and have never known, ordered, requested or allowed anyone who played a role and participated in the Miss Universe Indonesia 2023 process to commit violence or sexual harassment through body checking.”
The scandal is the latest controversy to hit the long-running competition, which critics have attacked as sexist and demeaning to women.
Between 1996 and 2015 the rights to the pageant were part-owned by former US president Donald Trump.
The MUO’s swift response to the allegations in Indonesia comes after it was taken over by Thai media tycoon and transgender rights campaigner Anne Jakkaphong in 2022.
Earlier this year she promised a “new era” for the competition and added: “from now on it’s going to be run by women, owned by a trans woman, for all women around the world to celebrate the power of feminism”.