Uganda's Women Are Not Products to be Sold to Tourists

State Minister for Tourism Mr Godfrey Kiwanda with Ugandan models at the launch of ‘Miss Curvy Uganda’ at a Kampala hotel on February 5, 2019.
4 February 2019

Johannesburg — How on earth did the Ugandan Tourism Ministry think that adding "curvy and sexy" Ugandan women to the list of tourism products to attract tourists was a good idea? Tourism products... are they serious?

The State Minister for Tourism, Mr Godfrey Kiwanda, unveiled the initiative in Kampala on February 5, saying the beauty pageant dubbed Miss Curvy Uganda has been launched to select "sexy curvaceous women", and the finalists will be selected in June.

The minister justified his initiative by saying: "We have naturally endowed nice looking women that are amazing to look at. Why don't we use these people as a strategy to promote our tourism industry?"

It's hard to believe that in the 21st century some people entrusted with leadership positions see nothing wrong with objectifying women. More than two people had to have sat down to discuss this initiative before the idea was revealed to the nation - surely someone should have known that the idea was ridiculous!

The minister's idea was rightly slammed for his degrading comments, and a petition launched to get the plan and the pageant scrapped by some Ugandan women who say the plan is "ridiculous and dehumanising".

The lead organiser for the beauty pageant Ann Mungoma had this to say in the Daily Monitor: "Miss Curvy is an event that will bring out the endowment of the real African woman. It is an exceptional event that will see young ladies showcase their beautiful curves and intellect." She saw nothing wrong with her statement.

What exactly is a "real African woman"? The notion that a "real African woman" is curvy sounds quite absurd to me. There are all types of people in the African continent, we are known for being diverse, we have different body types, hair textures and skin tones and are all beautiful.

Just like other East African countries, Uganda has a diverse landscape and national parks with wildlife species such as gorillas, chimpanzees, birds, and hippos. The River Nile, crater lakes and mountains are among the many reasons tourists want to experience.

Statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority shows that Uganda recorded 1.9 million tourism arrivals compared to 1.4 million in 2017. This shows that the country is not doing all that bad and the tourism ministry doesn't need to go to such extremes to have woman be turned in to tourist products.

The country must stick to partnering with PR and marketing agencies to market the country to the international community for investments and tourism.

Here is what some Ugandans had to say about the Miss curvy initiative:

"I personally feel attacked. This is degrading of women. In a country where women are grabbed by men while walking on the streets and now they have legalized it by making them tourist attractions is not fair,"  Primrose Murungi's petition reads.

Some are even calling for the president to fire the tourism minister...

Gadkanyesigye @gadkans
Am still wondering on how this minister came up with such a contest of #MissCurvyUganda ,but I think the whole thing became a public nuisance, am disappointed with this minister, Ugandan tourism can't be reduced to that extent... @KagutaMuseveni we appeal to you for reshuffle.

Julius Bintu @JuliusBintu
"Now at this moment, we should be asking what needs to be done for Mr. Godfrey Kiwanda to be replaced. Instead of promoting tourism, some of his initiatives will just do negative PR for Uganda as a country".

Cynthia Tumwebaze @CitieMwiza
I don't think the idea of holding a curvy campaign is abusive. I mean we've held beauty pageants since time immemorial. However, I do think calling curvy ladies 'tourist attractions' shouldn't sit right with any thinking human being.

nextUOTInfluencer @SebastianBenar4
"An African woman/My mum, your mum is not a novelty or a spectacle to be exhibited like an animal in a zoo by white men as tourist attractions. Our daughters should be celebrated for their substance, not the size of their buttocks. Shame on you Kiwanda".

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