Uganda’s tourism minister has suggested showcasing curvy women in order to attract more visitors.
Godfrey Kiwanda described the plan at the launch of a plus-size pageant, Miss Curvy Uganda, in the capital Kampala.
Gesturing to the contestants, he said that full-figured women were “the story we sell” to visitors.
Mr Kiwanda’s comments have been called “dehumanising” and “degrading”, and a petition has been launched to get the plan – and the pageant – scrapped.
Speaking at the pageant launch on Tuesday, the minister said it would be “an exceptional event that will see young ladies showcase their beautiful curves”.
“We have naturally endowed, nice-looking women who are amazing to look at,” Ugandan news site Daily Monitor quoted him as saying. “Why don’t we use these people as a strategy to promote our tourism industry?”
Unsurprisingly, there was a swift backlash to the proposal online.
Some people accused Mr Kiwanda of talking about women as though they were zoo animals, with one woman even questioning whether they would be put “in a cage for the tourists to see”.
And in a Change.org petition, campaigner Primrose Murungi wrote that she “personally feels attacked” by the idea, and called for Mr Kiwanda to issue an apology to the public.
“This is degrading of women,” she said. “They are objectifying us and reducing women to nothing.”
The Ministry of Tourism has yet to publicly comment on the criticism.
“I personally feel attacked. This is degrading of women. In a country where women are grabbed by men while walking on the streets and now they have legalized it by making them tourist attractions is not fair,” Ms Primrose Murungi’s petition reads.
She demands that the contest is taken down and that Minister Kiwanda offers a public apology for coming up with such an initiative.
“They are objectifying us and reducing women to nothing. Please sign this petition for ministry of tourism to take down the miss curvy challenge and offer an apology to the public as well.”
Several people have started collecting signature online to petition the Ministry to have the planned concert cancelled.