Miss Papua New Guinea has been stripped of her crown after sharing a video of herself twerking on TikTok, with critics saying the incident reveals a deep-seated culture of misogyny in the country.
Lucy Maino, 25, who has also served as co-captain of Papua New Guinea’s women’s football team, faced intense online harassment after she shared a video of herself twerking on the video-sharing app TikTok.
Though twerking videos are common on the application, Maino’s now-deleted video was singled out by critics who said it was not fitting for a “role model” to share a video of herself dancing in this way.
The video was downloaded from her private account and shared on social media platforms and YouTube, where thousands of people piled on to criticise Maino.
After the video and the backlash to it, Maino was “released” from her duties by the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant PNG (MPIP PNG) committee this week.
“Our core purpose is empowerment of women. We are a unique pageant style platform that promotes cultural heritage, traditional values and sharing through tourism about our country and people,” the committee said in a statement. “MPIP PNG promotes the virtues of confidence, self-worth, integrity, and community service with a parallel focus on education.”
Allan Bird, the governor of East Sepik and co-chair of the Coalition of Parliamentarians against Gender-Based Violence, denounced the online harassment of Maino, writing on social media: “What kind of society condemns the torture and killing of women yet get upset when a young woman does a dance video?”
A former Miss PNG, who did not wish to be named, said the incident showed deep-seated misogyny in the country.
“I am sure if a male public figure did a TikTok , we would all be laughing or even praising him,” she said.
Maino received a football scholarship which allowed her to complete a degree in business administration at the University of Hawaii. She represented Papua New Guinea as co-captain of the 2019 national team, winning two gold medals in the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.
She was crowned Miss Papua New Guinea – a role that involves acting as a cultural ambassador for the country and an advocate for women – in 2019. She has continued in the role for an additional year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many people criticised the committee for not supporting Maino after she was attacked for the video.
A women’s advocate, who did not wish to be named for fear of becoming a target of the people who harassed Maino online, said: “The committee could have handled it better by first outlining the clause that she breached as a reigning queen … I feel that they threw her under the bus and didn’t give her a chance to come out and talk. That is not the way to go.”
The United Nations in Papua New Guinea expressed their dissatisfaction through a statement on Facebook: “We see the devastation of violence against women and children in this beautiful country. Some through bullying have lost their lives … It starts with telling women they should cover up. It starts with telling women, they shouldn’t dance like that.”
The Guardian approached Maino and the MPIP PNG committee for comment but they did not respond by time of publication.
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