The new Miss Peru 2017, Romina Lozano, at the Municipal Theatre of Lima. Contestants turned the Miss Peru pageant into a protest. Picture: AFP/Latina Television
Unlike US President Donald Trump, I’ve never really been a great fan of beauty pageants. Granted, they can play a positive role in boosting a person’s confidence and self-esteem. But often they’re no more than glorified cattle parades, in which image-obsessed young women flash their smiles and physical endowments on stage and offer empty platitudes about how they plan to save the Earth.

But something I read last week helped change my attitude somewhat. It was a newspaper report about the Miss Peru pageant in Lima. It turns out the bevy of beauties went through the early preliminaries according to the programme, but at a certain point, broke with tradition and turned the event into a powerful protest about violence against women.

Instead of reciting their bust, waist and hip-size statistics, the women used the platform to expose the shocking facts of violence against women in one of South America’s most dangerous countries for women.

“My name is Camila Canicoba,” said the first contestant, “and my measurements are 2202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country.” Another entrant sashayed forward to announce: “One girl dies every 10 minutes due to sexual exploitation.”

Finalist Karen Cueto rounded off the shameful litany when she pointed out that 82 women had been murdered and 156 cases of attempted murder had been registered against women in Peru this year.

Some of the women taking part had themselves been victims of violence, including rape. Take a bow, young women of Peru. You are an example to the rest of the world.

You recognised your country has a problem and were prepared to use any platform to draw attention to it.

We, too, have problems in South Africa, especially the millions suffering under the yoke of rampant and crippling corruption.

We were once a proud and promising country. The world looked up to us as an example of a courageous nation that fought unrelentingly to end injustice and oppression. But alas, many of our leaders have abandoned the values they once held dear and are selling their souls to the highest bidder. South Africa is now a captured state.

The money squandered and stolen belongs to us, the taxpayers. Like the brave women of Peru, it’s our duty to use every platform to speak out.

Read more: Miss Peru contest turns into platform against sexual violence