Kampala — A proposal to market curvy and sexy Ugandan women as tourism attraction products has attracted public condemnation, the latest coming from President Museveni who said he will not allow young girls to expose their bodies.
While addressing journalists yesterday after the Presidential Investors' Round table discussions, Mr Museveni said the proposal has never been endorsed by Cabinet, adding that there is no justification for tourists to come to Uganda to purposely look at beautiful women.
"This was not a Cabinet decision. People should not come here to see women. I don't like the idea that we are marketing our women for tourism," the President said.
"I have also seen the pictures of curvy women displaying themselves. One of those women in the photos is a sharp shooter. Anne Mungoma is a markswoman who used to represent the police for shooting at the Olympics," he added.
Ms Mungoma is the chief Miss Curvy contest organiser.
Mr Museveni also said the contestants could have been motivated by Ms Quiin Abenakyo, Miss World Africa's victory.
"I suspect these young women got excited when my granddaughter Abenakyo won this beauty contest. So, some of these girls, I suspect, went to [Godfrey] Kiwanda [State Minister for Tourism] to also have their own competition of Ms Nabitege (rickets). We shall advise them quietly," he said.
Mr Museveni said they will explain to those promoting Miss Curvy pageant that young people need to be handled sympathetically "because it will be hard to explain that the beauty queen [pageant] is appreciated but not for the curvy."
"We should take time and look at this. I have my private view on all these but I haven't discussed them. Certainly, I would not allow my grandchildren to show their body appearance. We are only encouraging Abenakyo to use her position as Miss World Africa to sell Uganda to the rest of the world," he said.
Commenting on organising the Miss Curvy pageant, Mr Museveni said: "There is need to study this and see how to guide them."
The proposal to add curvy and sexy Ugandan women as a new tourist attraction product has attracted condemnation from other sections of the public who accuse the minister of objectifying women as sexual objects.
Addressing a separate press conferences on Wednesday, the Uganda Women's Network and the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association called for Mr Kiwanda's resignation, saying he has undermined the integrity of women.
The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Fr Simon Lokodo, vowed to stop the pageant, terming it as another form of "promoting pornography that was outlawed in Uganda."
"I will use the laws of this country to stop their arrangements. It is ill-minded, demeans women's dignity. What message are you sending to young girls? That those without curves should go and enhance them, which will damage their health?" Fr Lokodo asked during a telephone interview with Daily Monitor yesterday.
He said the initiative is 'evil' as it "itemises and demeans" the dignity of women "who are our mothers and sisters."
"You want a tourist from Austria to come and look at our women's curves? And then what? That they stop there or go and discover what is behind those curves? Fr Lokodo asked.
Mr Kiwanda, however, insisted that the proposed pageant is purely to create more awareness about Uganda locally and globally, with the view of attracting tourists who will bring in foreign exchange.
Tourism is a top foreign exchange earner for Uganda and the country last year earned $1.4b (Shs5 trillion) from the sector, according to government statistics.
Most tourists visit Uganda to tour national parks for diverse wildlife species such as gorillas, birds and other animals. They also love viewing the River Nile, crater lakes and mountains, among others.
"Those accusing me that I am portraying women as sex objects are the ones thinking about sex. Sex is in their brains," Mr Kiwanda said by telephone.
"We have had many beauty pageants--Miss Tourism, Miss Uganda, Miss Eastern... .and all these pageants look out for small bodied women but in Miss Curvy, it is focused on big-sized ladies," he added.
The minister also dismissed calls from women activists calling for his resignation, saying he means well for the tourism industry and never intended to offend anyone.
"Miss Curvy is a private initiative and just like we support Rolex Festival, Miss Tourism... , the ministry supports this initiative (Curvy pageant). I was invited there to offer support and I think people lack information about the pageant," Mr Kiwanda said.
Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali also condemned the pageant contest.
In a statement issued yesterday, Archbishop Ntagali said the pageant "undermines the dignity of women and all that we as a Church have worked for to advance the girl-child education and opportunities for women to take their part in contributing fully to our national and family development."
"It is a disgusting display of exploitation and brings shame upon our families and our country. The government is promoting trafficking to increase tourism. To present such a programme is to demonstrate how low we have fallen as a country. We cannot accept it and we insist that it be cancelled," the statement adds.
Efforts to speak to Ms Mungoma were futile as she did not pick our repeated calls or return them by press time.