Six finalists in this year’s Miss Universe Indonesia beauty pageant have lodged police complaints accusing organizers of making them strip for “body checks” and topless photographs.
Addressing reporters outside regional police headquarters in the capital Jakarta on Tuesday, Mellisa Anggraini, an attorney representing the women, alleged that her clients had been asked to remove their tops so pageant officials could “examine scars, cellulite or tattoos,” she said.
One contestant, identified only by the initial “N”, had expressed shock because “body checks” were not listed in the event’s schedule, according to Anggraini. The unidentified woman complied and was photographed topless, as were four other of the women. “It was enough to humiliate and degrade her,” the lawyer said in comments aired by CNN affiliate CNN Indonesia.
At a press conference another unidentified contestant, whose face was blurred by local broadcasters, said she had been asked to pose inappropriately, including by opening her legs, Reuters reported.
The complainants say the photographs were taken with male officials present in the room. Additional evidence such as documents and videos were submitted along with the police report, Anggraini said.
The alleged incidents took place on August 1, two days before the grand final in Jakarta, she added.
Police spokesperson Yuliansyah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told reporters that formal complaints were filed on Monday and investigations were ongoing. “The complaints will be used as the basis for our investigation,” she said.
The Miss Universe pageant takes place every year in a different host country, and sees dozens of national pageant winners competing for the global title. The live event attracts global audiences of millions.
In a statement shared with CNN, Miss Universe organizers said they were aware of the allegations made against the Miss Universe Indonesia 2023 pageant, which is operated by a local franchisee.
“Miss Universe takes allegations of sexual abuse and impropriety extremely seriously,” the statement read. “Providing a safe place for women is the Miss Universe Organization’s utmost priority, and we are looking into this matter.”
The Indonesian pageant’s organizers did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment but in a statement shared on Instagram, director Poppy Capella said her organization was “closely monitoring the situation.”
“We are actively investigating the allegations that have been reported in the mass media,” Capella’s statement read. “We will conduct a thorough investigation and review allegations made against us. We will promptly take the necessary stance and actions regarding this issue and ascertain the truth.”
CNN has also reached out to the complainants’ legal representatives for further comment.