An online petition is calling on Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities to scrap its plans for a “Miss Curvy Uganda” beauty pageant.
The petition comes in the wake of comments made by Uganda’s State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda, at the pageant’s launch event in Kampala on Tuesday, when he said the country’s women should be used as a strategy to boost tourism.
“We have naturally endowed, nice-looking women who are amazing to look at,” Kiwanda said. “Why don’t we use these people as a strategy to promote our tourism industry?”
The pageant is part of the ministry’s Tulambule initiative that aims to highlight Uganda’s tourist attractions.
According to a mission statement on its website, “the event is organized to recognize and acknowledge the big, bold and beautiful plus-size Ugandan ladies.”
Curvy women have now been added to a list of tourist attractions which also includes national parks, wildlife and spectacular waterfalls.
Unsurprisingly, the suggestion that women be used to attract foreign tourists has received widespread condemnation on social media, in the local press and from a fellow minister in Uganda’s cabinet.
Minister of Ethics and Integrity Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo has called on the Tourism Ministry to showcase the wide array of tourist attractions in Uganda instead of “scandalizing” the nation.
“I totally condemn that pageant and I would want it stopped,” Lokodo said in an interview with Record TV Uganda. “It is not fair to women, and girls growing up because it un-dignifies them.”
The petition was created by Primrose Murungi, a Ugandan woman, who says she feels personally attacked by the minister’s comments and the pageant.
Murungi described it as “degrading” and “objectifying”.
It’s “not fair,” she wrote, “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.”
At the time of writing, the petition had attracted close to 1,800 signatures.
Tourism generates about $750 million in direct contribution to Uganda’s GDP, according to a 2018 forecast by The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
The finalists of the pageant are due to be selected in June according to organizers, but it’s unclear if it will still go ahead in light of the controversy generated.
The Ministry of Tourism has yet to comment publicly since the minister’s remarks were first reported.
The incident marks the second time in only a matter of weeks that male Ugandan leaders have made allegedly disparaging comments about women.
In December, President Yoweri Museveni criticized Quinn Abenakyo, winner of the Miss World Africa beauty pageant, for “wearing Indian hair”.
“We must show African beauty in its natural form,” Museveni wrote in a tweet.