What Miss Papua New Guinea Losing Her Title for 'Dancing' Tells Us About Gender Inequality
Papua New Guinea is considered one of the most dangerous places to be a girl or woman.
Lucy Maino, crowned Miss Papua New Guinea in 2019, has been stripped of her title by the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant (MPIP PNG) after she posted a video of herself dancing on popular social media platform TikTok.
Maino was criticised thousands of times by angry commenters, who called out the 25-year-old for “lacking decency,” promoting “immoral Western culture” and “inappropriately twerking in a Christian nation.”
In response to the backlash, pageant organisers said “an amicable decision was reached,” with Maino released from all duties.
"After discussions with Maino last week, MPIP PNG now formally advises that the reign of the 2019 crowned Miss Papua New Guinea has come to an end,” Chairperson of MPIP PNG Molly O’Rourke said in a Facebook statement. “Maino has been released with immediate effect to focus on her future goals as a private citizen and is no longer the holder of the Miss Papua New Guinea title.”
In the now-deleted video, Maino explains why dance is a passion of hers.
"Did you know unexpressed emotion gets stored in your body?” Maino, who was also previously the co-captain of Papua New Guinea’s women’s football team, wrote alongside the clip. “I always wondered why I love dance. To me, it is a form of healing and self-expression.”
Maino said the dance was a “vulnerable moment [she wanted] to share.”
'It starts with telling women they should cover up. It starts with telling women, they shouldn’t dance like that.'— Kate Lyons (@MsKateLyons) April 7, 2021
Miss Papua New Guinea stripped of crown for TikTok twerking video in incident that critics say highlights misogyny in PNG from @LSJorarihttps://t.co/QPlfiVzS4p
The decision to strip the former beauty queen of her title has angered activists across the region.
Allan Bird, the governor of the nation’s East Sepik Province and co-chair of the newly established Coalition of Parliamentarians Against Gender-Based Violence, took to Facebook to question “what kind of society condemns the torture and killing of women yet get upset when a young woman does a dance video?”
The United Nations in Papua New Guinea, meanwhile, denounced the cyberbullying Maino received over the post.
"While constructive criticism and dissenting views are legitimate, bullying is never acceptable in any form: neither digital nor in-person,” the group wrote on Facebook. “We see the devastation of violence against women and children in this beautiful country. Some through bullying have lost their lives.”
UN Women Papua New Guinea added that gender-based violence is rooted in inequality and discrimination. Violence against women often stems from the belief that men have a say over how women should act, dress and behave in society, the organisation explained.
"It starts with telling women they shouldn’t dance like that,” the organisation said, according to the Post Courier.
Activist organisation Papua New Guinea Against Violence has withdrawn its support of the pageant, criticising organisers for failing to use their platform to empower women — which, notably, is one of the key requirements of a Miss Papua New Guinea winner.
"[The Miss Pacific Islands Pageant] have chosen to ‘knuckle under’ public pressure coming predominantly from misogynists who fear women having freedom and rights,” the group said, according to the Post Courier. “It has been appalling.”
Papua New Guinea is considered one of the most dangerous places to be a girl or woman of any country globally.
Around 70% of Papua New Guinean women will face rape or assault in their lifetime, while violent attacks on women and girls accused of sorcery or witchcraft are ongoing problems.
A lack of social services, safe houses and counsellors, as well as inadequate police work and corruption, compounds the problem.