Vagina Monologues will 'corrupt Uganda's morals'

Ugandan authorities have banned the internationally acclaimed women’s rights play The Vagina Monologues as an affront to public morality and threatened to arrest organisers if they follow through on plans to stage benefit performances, officials said on Friday.

Information Minister Nsaba Buturo said the play has been deemed offensive and vulgar and will corrupt public morals if performed in Uganda.

“As government, we have agreed that this play should not be staged in the country because the language used is offensive, vulgar and not according to the country’s culture,” he said.

Written by United States playwright and feminist Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues is based on several hundred interviews with women around the world. It celebrates female sexuality and focuses on the abuses women suffer.

Three Ugandan rights groups had planned to stage the play beginning on Saturday to raise funds for war-torn northern Uganda and to promote their campaign against violence against women in the country.

Buturo, however, maintained that only a small part of the script deals with violence against women.

“The rest is a promotion of homosexuality, lesbianism and worship of the female sexual organ,” he said, noting that Uganda’s censorship board, the Media Council, had also objected to The Vagina Monologues.

“To the extent that the play promotes illegal, unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution, it should be and is hereby banned,” the council said in a ruling this week.

The council said the play can only be staged if the portions it deemed offensive are removed, an option the organisers rejected on Friday. They cancelled the performances.

“This play needs to be performed in its entirety or not at all,” they said in a statement.

One of the organisers, Sarah Mukasa, programme manager for Akina Mama wa Afrika, said the group is considering legal action to overturn the ban.

However, she took solace in the fact that the controversy has highlighted their problem of violence against women in Uganda.

“Although the play has been banned, our point has been made,” she said. “Our major concern was to raise issues about violence against women and sexual harassment.”

The play has been performed in more than 39 countries since 1996, including Iraq, sometimes with major stars such as Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon and Whoopi Goldberg.

But it has not been without controversy.

Last year, authorities in China banned two productions of The Vagina Monologues—one in Beijing and one in Shanghai—and a repeat performance of the play was banned in Malaysia in 2002 after complaints about its content.—Sapa-AFP

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