Shame on Uganda: Women are not things to be displayed for male pleasure - Evewoman
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Shame on Uganda: Women are not things to be displayed for male pleasure

Uganda's Tourism Minister, Godfrey Kiwanda (wearing black cap), launching the Miss Curvy beauty pageant

Guys, yesterday the Ugandan Tourism Minister announced that they will add curvy and sexy women to the list of their tourism products.

I experienced a variety of emotions when I read the articles trying to figure out if there was something I had missed. From disbelief, laughter, anger and finally disappointment. After all those decades of trying to move from the narrative of women are not things, one country cuts the progress in one fell swoop.

Minister Godfrey Kiwanda intelligently pointed out that Uganda has naturally endowed nice looking women that are amazing to look at. Why then don't they use these ladies as a strategy to promote the tourism industry?

I have a few choice words for the minister but let me address this objectively. Ugandan women, hell African women are a sight to behold. They are blessed with curves and amazing bodies. But that does not make them a tourism attraction.

I applaud the Miss Curvy pageant which recognizes women with curves in a world where skinny is considered fashionable. The pageant can among many things boost confidence for many young girls and women who are plus size as well as grow the fashion industry that deals with plus size designs. But at no point do they become a tourist attraction.

Sara Baartman was a South African woman who was exhibited in freak attractions in France due to her large buttocks in the 19th Century.  She was ferried back and forth as a source of amusement for the Europeans. Her dignity was stripped and her body used for profit.

Two centuries later, it would seem that not much is changing as a whole country endorses the very thing that women have been fighting against. This sets a dangerous precedent in the over sexualization of women. It is only a matter of time before women are forcefully recruited into this lucrative trade for the sake of earning the tourism dollars.

Much like the sex trade in Kenya where young girls run off to the coast to snag themselves a white man, it should not come as a surprise as young Ugandan girls jump right into the body trade for the same purpose. And unlike other tourist attractions, the sexualization of the woman's body complements the sex trades. There is very little chance that a man will ogle at a woman's body then go ahead to talk about bible verses or climate change.

So one way or the other, the Ugandan government has reduced women to sexual objects. It has totally ignored the skills that women can bring to the table that would actually increase tourism revenue or even serve as exports. From women entrepreneurs, to women who craft beads, baskets, to female think tanks, they have been ignored in favour of this. Instead of empowering women, they have stripped them of their dignity.

Then the saddest part of this whole conversation is that a woman, Ms Ann Mungoma, who is the lead organizer of the pageant insisting that it will enhance the visibility and appreciation of Ugandan people. She tucks in the aspect of intellect in her statement but guess what, all we heard was that the tourism ministry was going to use the women's bodies to attract tourists. I will talk about how women have become gatekeepers of patriarchy but that is a story for another day. For now, hear this, the great women of Uganda and Africa are more than just a beautiful body. We are not things or property. We have the greatest minds, spirits and hearts. We are courageous and strong. We refuse to be defined in any lesser way.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke

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