LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A Ukrainian model has launched a legal challenge against the Miss World beauty contest after she was banned from the competition for being a mother.
Model Veronika Didusenko, 24, who has a five-year-old son, was crowned Miss Ukraine in September last year, but was stripped of her title when organizers found out she was a single mother.
In October 2018, Viktoria Kiose, the executive director of Miss Ukraine told Russian news outlet RT that Didusenko knew what she was signing up for when she entered the contest.
“She signed the contract, and agreed to its conditions. She flouted the rules and lied to us, so we disqualified her,” Kiose said.
Didusenko said the pageant’s rules, which ban anyone from taking part in the Miss World franchise if they have children, were “stuck in the dark ages” and discriminatory under Britain’s Equality Act 2010.
“Miss World’s view on what constitutes ‘normal family values’ needs to change to reflect modern life. Their patriarchal ideas on morality also need to be challenged,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an emailed statement.
Her lawyers confirmed they had written to Miss World threatening legal action.
“We hope that Miss World will take this opportunity to engage with us and update its discriminatory rules,” Ravi Naik of ITN Solicitors said by email on Monday.
He said they also planned to file a complaint with Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, an independent regulatory body.
Miss World, whose headquarters are in London, did not immediately comment.
Pageant organizers have previously been quoted as saying that travel obligations would make it hard for winners to split their attention between the role and being a parent.
Didusenko, who describes herself on Twitter as “Miss Ukraine 2018, model, activist, mother to Alex” said the argument a mother cannot fulfill responsibilities to her work and her family was outdated.
“Would society say the same about a successful international female lawyer, Hollywood actor or Olympic athlete who have to travel for their work? Of course it wouldn’t,” said Didusenko, who takes her son on assignments.
She is pushing to change beauty contest rules to allow all women to participate through an online campaign, #righttobeamother.
Joeli Brearley, founder of campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed which is supporting Didusenko, said discrimination towards mothers was rife.
“A woman having her crown removed because she dared to procreate is emblematical of a problem many women will identify with,” she added.
A number of other women have been banned from beauty contests or stripped of titles for being mothers. In April, Joyce Prado lost her Miss Universe Bolivia 2018 crown when she revealed she was pregnant.
This year’s contest will be hosted in London on Dec 14.
(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Tom Finn. Pluralist contributed to this report.)