YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – A Catholic priest in Uganda has called the country’s tourism minister “a disciple of Satan” for a new campaign highlighting the country’s women.
On February 5, the offiical, Godfrey Kiwanda, launched the “Miss Curvy Uganda” beauty pageant as part of his “Tulambule” (“let’s tour”) promotion to attract foreign visitors. The winner will be announced in June.
“We have naturally endowed, nice-looking women that are amazing to look at. Why don’t we use these people as a strategy to promote our tourism industry?” Kiwanda said.
He said the scheme was also a way of appreciating “the way God created us.”
“Miss Curvy Uganda is organized to recognize and acknowledge the big, bold and beautiful plus size of Ugandan ladies. This pageant aims to enhance the visibility and appreciation of curvaceous ladies as they walk the runway.”
He noted that the winner of the contest will be “part of our tourism campaign brand using beauty as one other product of tourism.”
Father Gaetano Batanyenda of Kitanga has joined Christian leaders in the country in condemning the proposal.
“Kiwanda, born of a woman, who has a woman and girls-to use the curvy women’s diseases to change them into a tourist attraction confirms that he is a disciple of Satan,” he said at a Feb. 7 press conference.
“Churchill said that Uganda is the Pearl of Africa and as Catholics, we used to sing that Uganda is the Pearl of Africa,” the priest said, referring to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
“So, has Uganda failed to identify anything to show tourists, to an extent of using our wives, our mothers and our girls as tourist attractions?” Batanyenda asked.
He pointed out that most plus-sized or “curvy” women actually suffer from such health complications as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
The priest was also concerned that women would consult local witch doctors in order to achieve success in the contest.
He further warned that if the campaign is not stopped, it could eventually lead to pornography, already outlawed by Uganda.
“Eventually, they will extend to sexuality because many tourists will like to sleep with these women, to measure their sizes whether they differ from other women,” Batanyenda said.
The priest called on all Ugandans to come out and condemn the minister’s intensions.
The Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, called the pageant “digusting” on Feb. 7.
“As Archbishop, and on behalf of the entire Church of Uganda, we condemn the proposed Miss Curvy Uganda beauty pageant and urge the sponsors and partners to cancel it,” Ntagali said.
“It undermines the dignity of women and all that we as a church have worked for to advance girl-child education and opportunities for women to take their part in contributing fully to our national and family development. We cannot accept it and we insist that it be cancelled,” the archbishop said.
Women activists in the East African country have cried out against what they consider “a perversion.”
Ugandan entrepreneur and activist Primrose Nyonyozi Murungi launched an online petition to stop the campaign, saying it was “totally unacceptable and demeaning” to the country’s women.
“Women in Uganda have been attacked while on the streets. What happens now that the government is confirming a stereotype that women are sexual objects and can be touched regardless and more so made a product of tourism,” she said.
And Rita Aciro, Executive Director of the Ugandan Women Network, tweeted:
“There are countries that have successfully promoted tourism without objectifying women. The Minister of Tourism should work to address challenges scaring tourists away instead of objectifying women.”
The opposition isn’t just coming from outside government.
The country’s state minister of ethics and integrity, Simon Lokodo, said the contest “definitely could not happen,” describing it as “shameful.”
“It demeans women and completely destroys their integrity. You can’t bring people from abroad to come and see the physiognomy of your people,” he said.
“It’s not different from the striptease that they put in bars and lodges. It completely reduces a woman to toys of entertainment,” Lokodo said.
Yet, Kiwanda seems adamant, insisting that the campaign is not aimed at demeaning women.
“Diverse as we are as a country, we have a message to put out there about the different curves our women have, which we believe is a tourism attraction.”
Tourism is a top source of foreign exchange for Uganda. Government figures indicate that the country earned $1.4 billion from the sector in 2018.