Female Ugandan activists have since last Thursday been slamming a government supported campaign to use “curvy women” to attract tourists to the east African nation.
State minister for tourism Godfrey Kiwanda unveiled the campaign last Wednesday at a news conference attended by a bevy of curvaceous women.
“Uganda is endowed with beautiful women. Their beauty is unique and diverse. That’s why we decided to use the unique beauty, the curves… to make this beauty a product to be marketed along with what we already have as a country ranging from nature, the language and food, to make it a tourist attraction,” Mr Kiwanda said then.
Part of the plan to market Ugandan women is a beauty pageant, Miss Curvy Uganda, to be held in June.
“The winner of the Miss Curvy contest was to be part of our tourism campaign brand using beauty as one other product of tourism,” Mr Kiwanda added.
However, Ugandan women were outraged at the proposal and have called for Kiwanda’s resignation.
“This is perversion. To think women can be used as sex objects in this age and time is an absurdity and we condemn it,” Rita Aciro, executive director of the Uganda Women’s Network, said.
Ugandan entrepreneur and activist Primrose Nyonyozi Murungi launched an online petition to stop the campaign, which she said was “totally unacceptable and demeaning to us”.
“Women in Uganda have been attacked while on the streets. What happens now is that the government is confirming a stereotype that women are sexual objects and can be touched regardless and more so made a product of tourism,” she said.
However, while appearing on NTV Uganda’s Fourth Estate on Sunday evening, Mr Kiwanda denied being the organizer of the pageant but added that there was nothing wrong with “appreciating what we are but after appreciating, what you do thereafter is your business.”
“The minister of tourism is not the organiser of pageants. These are private initiatives. Tourism is everybody’s business. You are allowed to bring in your ideas and we give you support. There is no way we are parading women as tourism attraction. But then, it’s very difficult to talk about a country’s tourism without talking about it’s people,” he said.
Mr Kiwanda further noted that he has no mandate to call off the pageant because it’s a private initiative.
“As a ministry we do not have the mandate to call off the Miss Curvy Pageant. This is totally a private initiative,” he added.