A contentious debate has arisen in Pakistan over the nation’s participation in the upcoming Miss Universe competition. Erica Robin, a 24-year-old Christian woman from Karachi, is set to represent Pakistan at the prestigious event, marking the country’s first-ever contestant at the Miss Universe pageant.
She is set to represent Pakistan at the 72nd Global Miss Universe Pageant scheduled to take place in El Salvador in November this year.
Robin was chosen as Miss Universe Pakistan among five finalists at a competition that was held in Maldives.
However, this decision has triggered heated discussions within Pakistan, drawing criticism from conservative groups and political figures.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islami party has openly condemned Robin’s selection, labelling it as “shameful.” The controversy intensified as caretaker prime minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar initiated an official investigation into the matter, highlighting the significant concerns within certain political circles.
The criticism primarily revolves around the perception that beauty pageants are inappropriate in a Muslim-majority country like Pakistan.
Opponents argue that Robin’s participation contradicts the nation’s values, particularly expressing discomfort with the traditional swimsuit segment, which some consider inappropriate for a Pakistani woman.
Defending her participation in the beauty pageant, Robin said, “It feels great to represent Pakistan. But I don’t understand where the backlash is coming from. I think it is this idea that I would be parading in a swimsuit in a room full of men.”
Pakistani model Vaneeza Ahmed, who initially encouraged Robin to pursue modelling, pointed out the double standards. She told Voice of America Urdu, “When these men are fine with international competitions called ‘Mister Pakistan’, why do they have a problem with a woman’s achievement?”
She said Pakistan is predominantly an authoritarian state, and this is reflected in the stringent patriarchal values it upholds both institutionally and socially. “Erica Robin and the policing she has faced is an extension of that.”
Despite the backlash, Erica Robin remains steadfast, asserting that she is not breaking any laws and views her participation to challenge prevailing stereotypes about Pakistan. Defending her right to represent Pakistan on the global stage, she asserted that she is contributing to dispelling stereotypes about her country.
Robin emerged as a winner after defeating finalists Hira Inam (24), Jessica Wilson (28), Malika Alvi (19), and Sabrina Wasim (26) at the competition that was hosted in the Maldives.
The event was coordinated by the Dubai-based Yugen Group, which owns the franchise rights for Miss Universe Bahrain and Miss Universe Egypt. The Miss Universe Pakistan pageant reportedly attracted an “overwhelming” number of applications.
According to media reports, Robin was born in Karachi in 1999, and completed her schooling at St. Patrick’s Girls High School. She pursued further education at the Government College of Commerce and Business Administration in Chandigarh.
Robin entered the modelling industry in 2020, participating in various shoots and fashion shows for Pakistani brands. Following her victory, Robin expressed her gratitude, emphasising her desire to showcase Pakistan’s culture and hospitality on the global stage.
Expressing her gratitude after winning the pageant in Maldives, Robin said she is “honoured and humbled to be the first-ever Miss Universe Pakistan.” She aims to showcase the beauty of Pakistan, a country rich in culture that often goes unnoticed in the media, she said.
She added, “Pakistani people are very generous, kind, and hospitable.” Additionally, she extended an invitation for everyone to visit her country and indulge in “scrumptious” Pakistani cuisines and the natural beauty of her country.