Four days after she was crowned Miss Ukraine 2018, Veronika Didusenko was stripped of her title.
Ms. Didusenko is suing claiming discrimination. Ms. Didusenko’s attorney, Ravi Naik, an esteemed and honoured international human rights lawyer said in a statement, “The Equality Act (2010) protects against discrimination on the basis of certain protected characteristics, including marriage, maternity and sex. The reason Veronika was not allowed to compete in Miss World is because she was married and had a child.”
Within hours of being named Miss Ukraine, which put her in the running for Miss Universe, evidence arose that Ms. Didusenko had been married previously and had a child, two things explicitly prohibited in pageant rules.
Initially, pageant officials justified their decision to rescind Miss Ukraine’s title and 12,000 USD award because she, “… gave false information on her application.” Lying on an application is certainly grounds for dismissal from most jobs.
Pageant rules are clear: “… contestants may not be married or pregnant. They must not have ever been married, not had a marriage annulled nor given birth to, or parented a child. The titleholders are also required to remain unmarried throughout their reign.”
By today’s standards, it is discriminatory to exclude women who are divorced and/or have a child(ren) from participating in anything, pageants included for those reasons alone.
Ms. Didusenko denied that she lied. She explained there was no option on the online application to disclose that she was previously married nor that she had a child.
On the other hand, Ms. Didusenko knew, or should have known the rules for all competitors. By merely applying, she misrepresented herself as a qualified contestant.
Ms. Didusenko asserts that she is not seeking to regain the title of Miss Ukraine, the financial award or damages from her lawsuit. Rather, she hopes the pageant will change its rules to reflect modern day women.
When the first Miss Universe pageant was held 68 years ago in 1952, the requirements against being or having been married or having had a child were in line with the standards for women and the definition of ‘Miss’. What is disturbing is Pageant Officials’ responses to the lawsuit last week.
4 December 2019, Yuri Ageiev, the head of the Miss Ukraine committee, said Ms. Didusenko had agreed to the rules. He added that the hectic schedule of the winner was unsuitable for women with children because, “…it may negatively affect the upbringing of a small child who will be deprived of his mother’s love.”
A statement from the pageant explained that the rules are in place because holding the title of Miss World is too demanding of a task for a mother or someone in a relationship.
To which Ms. Didusenko replied, “It’s not up to Miss World to decide my ability to balance career and parenting.”