State minister Godfrey Kiwanda said the government "decided to use the unique beauty, the curves...to make it a tourist attraction," drawing fire from women and rights organisations.
Ugandan women on Thursday slammed a government campaign to use "curvy women" as a tourism "product", which has sparked a furore in the east African nation.
Tourism Minister Godfrey Kiwanda unveiled the campaign on Wednesday at a press conference flanked by women.
"Uganda is endowed with beautiful women. Their beauty is unique and diverse. 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," Kiwanda said on Thursday.
Part of the plan to market Ugandan women is a beauty pageant, Miss Curvy Uganda, to be held in June.
"The winner of the Miss Curvy contest was to be part of our tourism campaign brand using beauty as one other product of tourism," Kiwanda said.
Ugandan women were outraged at the proposal and have called for Kiwanda's resignation.
"This is perversion. 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.
A Ugandan woman has started a petition to have the Miss Curvy Uganda contest cancelled. The initiative unveiled in Kampala yesterday by the State minister for Tourism, Mr Godfrey Kiwanda adds curvy and sexy Ugandan women to the list of tourism products to attract tourists. pic.twitter.com/m6WuBDw17d— Uganda NRM Students Association (. UNSA .) (@UgNrmstudent) February 6, 2019
Ugandan entrepreneur and activist Primrose Nyonyozi Murungi launched an online petition to stop the campaign, which she said was "totally unacceptable and demeaning to us."
"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.
She said that if the campaign was not stopped immediately, the petitioners would take their case to court.
In addition to Kiwanda's resignation, she has demanded an apology from the government.
#Uganda NATIONAL NEWS, 😩— Ritah Kase ⭐ (@asiimireritah) February 6, 2019
1. Will these tourists come see and go?
2. Will they see & pay?
3. Will they see, touch&feel these curves?
4. How much are we looking at anyway?
5. Who will they pay to?
6. Will it reflect in their Visas tht they came to see curves? pic.twitter.com/bSM8niKya3
Kiwanda, trying to stem the anger, insisted the campaign was 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," he argued.
Former opposition leader in parliament Winnie Kiiza said the move came "at the time (when) women face fear and stigma in a male-dominated society."
"We have been outraged by this campaign that a government can parade curves of women as a tourist attraction," she said.