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A street scene from Kampala, Uganda.
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Girls & Women

Uganda Promotes ‘Curvy Women’ as Tourist Attraction, Sparks Outrage


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Exploiting women’s bodies does not promote gender equality. Activists are calling on Uganda’s tourism ministry to remove its Miss Curvy contest. You can join us in taking action on this issue here

Ugandan women are livid after the country’s tourism minister Godfrey Kiwanda suggested promoting “curvy women” as a tourist attraction. Kiwanda proposed using the Miss Curvy Uganda beauty pageant in June to attract visitors at a press conference on Wednesday. Now activists and Ugandan women are demanding that he resign, Al Jazeera reports

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"Uganda is endowed with beautiful women. Their beauty is unique and diverse,” Kiwanda said, flanked by Miss Curvy Uganda contestants. 

“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," he added.

Ann Mungoma, the beauty pageant organizer, said the new contest is meant to champion body positivity and garner appreciation for Ugandan people. Social media users aren’t buying the message and challenged the announcement immediately, stirring controversy over the contest and ministry’s decision.

Activists have taken steps to end the campaign. Uganda’s planning and economic development minister Primrose Murungi launched a Change.org a petition demanding an apology and an end to the curvy woman contest.

“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,” Murungi wrote

“They are objectifying us and reducing women to nothing,” she continued. 

Read More: How two women are empowering girls in Uganda

Activists claim that Kiwanda’s comment does not help stop prejudices against women in the country. Despite laws and efforts to protect women in Uganda, gender-based violence increased by 4% between 2015 and 2016, according to the country’s police force annual crime report. 

"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

Uganda is a developing country that relies on tourism but critics don’t believe the current economic situation justifies exploiting them.

The petition aiming to tear down the government’s proposal already has over 1,700 signatures. If the tourism ministry doesn’t cancel the pageant, Murungi plans to take the case to court.

Kiwanda claims the campaign was not meant to demean women but has yet to comment on pulling the event.