Uganda’s leaders are at it again. Tourism minister, Hon Godfrey Kawanda beginning this week decided that he would be launching a beauty pageant to celebrate “curvy women”.  The competition will be called: ” Miss Curvy  Uganda”.

It is unbelievable that in 2019, a Ugandan minister believes that parading curvaceous women’s will boost Uganda’s tourism. Uganda is a very beautiful country and currently, tourism is Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner with the country earning $1.4 billion in 2018, according to government statistics.

Most tourists visit national parks for diverse wildlife species such as gorillas, birds and other animals. The source of Nile River is also a prime attraction, including crater lakes and mountains.

Young women in Uganda  have joined hands to rally against the pageant.   Some of the leaders of they young women’s movement are voicing concerns saying this is not proper at all, especially that women have not been involved in the decision-making. Ssanyu Penelope points out that women have not consented to be part of the pageant. So the women movement has arranged a couple of meetings with the ministry to get down to the bottom of the issue.

“We are condemning the objectification of women’s bodies. People are claiming that the women involved consented, however there are sources that they actually didn’t – so we are meeting them to understand what really happened before we claim to understand this as their source of income.” Said Ssanyu Penelope

Ssanyu adds:

“We are saying the minister’s statement is a violation of Art 33(6). We are saying it’s shameful to want to parade women as objects for tourism whether they understand what they are doing or not. Of all the ways to boost tourism, how can women’s bodies be the main focus?”

Objectification of women’s bodies can be traced back to as far back as the slave trade era,  where we have read about Sarah Baartman.  I have seen quite a number of people refer to that incident in history when talking about the current issue in Uganda.

Musa Mugoya a policy analyst took to his Facebook page and argued:

“When I read about the Miss Curvy Project,  I thought it was a joke.  This project reminds me of my Research Ethics Course Unit taught by Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo at Makerere University specifically the story of Sarah Baartman one of the two South African Khoi Khoi women who were exhibited because of the king size of their bums in Europe in the 19th century. What is happening is that, this is being done now by our own.”

There are also some schools of thought that are saying that elite women in Uganda are over reacting to the issue. Obviously, because this is an ongoing debate, there are still many conversations being held.

One of the persons who think this said  that the elite women that are fighting this may not really representing the  women involved. How do we say that we are speaking for all the women?

The debate is far from over and the minister does look like he is about to budge. For those of us not directly involved and do not have a full understand of the debacle must think beyond the present and think about the future and what this will mean in the coming years.

And as Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan woman activist says :

“It’s the same struggle different voices. The very women can speak for themselves and even if they would consent to their bodies being paraded there’s still room to tackle basis of exploitation they will encounter and the nature of their exploitation. It’s not Olympics really.”

I sit here hoping that this madness will end; that the minister will find it in himself to listen to all the counsel around him; that we, the society; will be firm in our resolve to not let the government speak on behalf of our women; that we shall make decisions right for ourselves and for our children in future. Women’s bodies cannot be paraded for tourism.