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Uganda bans 'The Vagina Monologues,' Threatens to Arrest Play Organizers

Originally published in:
AFP Features
KAMPALA (AFP) - Ugandan authorities have banned the internationally acclaimed women's rights play "The Vagina Monologues" as an affront to public morality and threatened to arrest organizers if they follow through on plans to stage benefit performances, officials said.

Information minister Nsaba Buturo said the play had been deemed offensive and vulgar and would 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 told AFP.

Written by US playwright and feminist Eve Ensler, "The Vagina Monologues" is based on several hundred interviews with women around the world and 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 could only be staged if the portions it deemed offensive were removed, an option the organizers rejected on Friday and cancelled the performances.

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

One of the organizers, Sarah Mukasa, program manager for the Akina Mama wa Afrika, told AFP the group was considering legal action to overturn the ban.

However she took solace in the fact that the controversy had 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 over 39* countries since 1996, including Iraq (news - web sites), sometimes with major stars such as Cate Blanchett (news), Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon and Whoopi Goldberg (news).

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.

*V-Day Correction: "The Vagina Monologues" has been performed in over 76
countries to date