A Divorced Mother Sues After Losing Her Title as Miss Ukraine

LONDON — For four days in 2018, Veronika Didusenko was hailed as Ukraine’s most beautiful woman.

But it wasn’t quite as simple as that. When the organizers of the Miss Ukraine competition found out that she was divorced and had a son, they stripped her of the title — and the $12,000 prize money — saying she had broken the rules.

Now Ms. Didusenko, 24, is suing the Miss World organization, with which the Ukrainian competition is affiliated, saying that the entry requirements — including that contestants be unmarried and childless — are a form of discrimination.

Ms. Didusenko announced the legal action in an Instagram post this week, writing that the entry policy operated by Miss World was “discriminatory on various grounds, namely marital status, and pregnancy and maternity.” In the post, she added that she only wanted to change the rules, not to have her Miss Ukraine crown back.

Miss World said in a statement on Wednesday that Ms. Didusenko had been disqualified because she “gave false information on her application.”

Ms. Didusenko acknowledged in a private Instagram message on Wednesday that she did not disclose the fact that she was a mother when she entered the competition in Ukraine. But she denied that she had lied, saying that she was single at the time and that there had been no option on the online application form to disclose that she was divorced and had a son.

The website does list the requirements, including not only the rules about marital status and childlessness, but also restrictions on age and height, and a need to have “no bad habits.”

Ms. Didusenko said that she had entered the contest to promote a charity that she had been working for that helped orphans. She said that she never thought she would win and was shocked when she was awarded the title in September 2018.

The victory lasted just four days. When the organizers of Miss Ukraine heard that she was a mother, they called Ms. Didusenko for confirmation.

“Of course, I said yes,” said Ms. Didusenko, whose son is now 5.

In an emailed statement on Wednesday, Yuri Ageiev, the head of the Miss Ukraine committee, said Ms. Didusenko had agreed to the rules. He said 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.”

Miss World America also requires participants to be unmarried and childless.

Miss World said in its statement on Ms. Didusenko that the rules were set with the aim of finding a winner “who is free and able to commit, often at short notice, to travel globally in support of the sick and disadvantaged which may be for long periods of time, often to areas devastated by natural disasters.”

Ms. Didusenko said those arguments were unconvincing. “Imagine you are Serena Williams going to play in Wimbledon when suddenly you realize that the entry criteria bans moms from taking part in the games,” she said. “Sounds shocking.”

Marichka Varenikova contributed reporting from Kalmar, Sweden.

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