A new government plan to include “Curvy and sexy Ugandan women” on the list of Uganda’s tourist attractions has come as a shock to women who are championing women’s rights and gender equality. I am one of such women. According to media reports, the Ministry of Tourism has launched a strategy to promote tourism and increase revenue earnings. In the strategy, women have been added as the newest tourist attraction product. This is one of the greatest blunders of 2019 and it is unacceptable in this era of contending women discrimination, gender insensitivity and stereotypes.
Such a strategy implies taking one step forward and two steps backward in terms of promoting gender equality. The strategy dispossesses women of their dignity and veneration. The Ministry of Tourism has greatly errored on this matter, and owes women an apology. Putting the matter into context, what the Tourism ministry intends to do or has already done is called “objectification”, an act of treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity.
The beauty pageant dubbed “Miss Curvy” that the ministry is organising for June, is a true meaning of “objectification”. In social philosophy, objectification is the act of treating a person, or sometimes an animal, as an object or a thing. It is part of dehumanisation, the act of disavowing the humanity of others. Under the new strategy, women will be looked at not only as things and tourists’ attractions, but also as sexual objects. For tourists who will come to Uganda purposely to view women curves, what will be their next move? Won’t that portray women as sex objects? Isn’t government through the Tourism ministry promoting sex slavery?
Psychologists associate objectification with a host of physical and mental health risks in women, ranging from physical, mental and social.
Objectification shall lead to many serious implications among women and girls, including “body shame, anxiety, negative attitudes, a disrupted flow of consciousness, diminished awareness of internal bodily states and depression. This brings an element of sexual objectification where women will be paraded for identification using their curvy shapes.
In essence, women, especially the ones who intend to participate in the pageant, will lose their identity and will be recognised solely by the shape of their bodies and the purpose of their recognition will be to bring enjoyment to others or to serve as a sexual object. This leads to jokes or comments, most of which are nasty and degrading. Why don’t we think of promoting what comes out of women instead of their bodies? Women are great leaders.
As a country, we need to expand the revenue base, but this should not be through portraying women as commodities for viewing and sale.
Stellah Nakibuuka,
[email protected]