Listing women as objects of tourism is quite demeaning

The move by the Ministry of Tourism to add “curvy and sexy Ugandan women to the list of tourism products to attract tourists” is outrageous and tantamount to commodifying Ugandan women.

It risks legitimising human trafficking, especially of young women and girls in Uganda. The preposterous utterances by state minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda are dehumanising and should be denounced by government. Mr Kiwanda is quoted in your article as saying “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?” The minister’ should apologise to the Ugandans and resign before he is forced to do so. He should also be barred from holding any public office for the next 10 years.

The Ministry of Ethics and Integrity should investigate the organisers and sponsors of ‘The Miss Curvy Uganda’ Beauty Pageant.

What were their intentions? This has undoubtedly tainted the ‘Tulambule’ (Let’s explore) tourism campaign. One can now argue that the naming of this campaign carries derogatory connotations, especially where the shape of women’s bodies are the subject, in this case, objects of attraction.

The campaign now risks discrediting Uganda’s commendable efforts towards promoting women’s empowerment. The actions of Ann Mungoma, Godfrey Kiwanda, and the like did not only evoke disturbing memories of human zoos, but also sets a dangerous precedence for and perception of the role and image of women in Uganda’s tourism industry.

What innovations should we expect next - ekimansulo reloaded? Perhaps Mr Kiwanda and his team ought to have read about Africa’s colonial history (see: story of Sarah ‘Saartjie’ Baartman), before adding curvy and sexy Ugandan females to the list of Uganda’s tourist attraction.

I would not be surprised if a ‘Curvy and Sexy in the Nude’ category is added to Uganda’s list of exclusive tourism offerings.

The primitiveness of putting the ‘primitive’ on display began during the modern period when explorers like Columbus and Vespucci lured natives back to Europe from their homelands.

To prove the discovery of exotic lands, the natives were flaunted and paraded like trophies. But what began as curious awe deteriorated into an era of racial superiority and the invention of the savage.

A 20-year-old girl from South Africa known as Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman would be emblematic of the dark era that gave rise to the popularity of human zoos.

She was recruited by an exotic animal-dealer on location in Cape Town and travelled to London in 1810 to take part in an exhibition. The young woman went willingly under the pretense that she would find wealth and fame.

Exhibitors were looking for certain qualities in their ‘exotic’ recruits that either coincided with the European beauty ideal or offered unexpected novelty.

Sarah had a genetic characteristic known as steatopygia; a protuberant buttocks and elongated labia.

She found herself being exhibited in cages at sideshow attractions dressed in tight-fitting clothing that violated any cultural norms of decency at the time. A few years later, she came to Paris where racial anthropologists poked and prodded and made their theories.

Sarah eventually turned to prostitution to support herself and drank heavily. She had been in Europe for only four years.

When she died in poverty, Sarah’s skeleton, sexual organs and brain were put on display at the Museum of Mankind in Paris where they remained until 1974.

In 2002, president Nelson Mandela formally requested the repatriation of her remains. Nearly two hundred years after she had stood on deck and watched her world disappear behind her, Sarah Baartman finally went home, where the air smelled of buchu and mint, and the veld called out her name.
Simon Sentamu,
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