What does Nigerian law say about cross-dressing?

THE premiere of ‘Ajanaku: Beast of Two Worlds’ took place on Sunday, March 24 at Circle Mall in Lekki, Lagos State, and was attended by celebrities as well as A-list actors and actresses.

At the event, the movie producer, Eniola Ajao, recognised two attendees with the most impressive fashion choices with the award of ‘Best Dressed’ and a cash prize of One Million naira each.

While ex-BBNaija housemate Groovy clinched the award for ‘Best Dressed Male’, cross-dresser Idris Olarenwaju, often known as Bobrisky, received the award for ‘Best Dressed Female’. This sparked up reactions by some celebrities and other Nigerians on social media. It also brought about the conversation that men were taking up spaces meant for females. 

Reacting to the award given to Bobrisky, actress Dayo Amusan, who was among the attendees, took to her Instagram page to express disappointment in the judges that picked Bobrisky over other actual women who attended the premiere, labelling it as disrespectful.

“I cannot imagine the judges disrespecting every woman present. You had to pick a winner, a female best dressed and a male best dressed and you watered the efforts of all the women at the event by giving the best dressed female to a cross-dresser. I don’t understand, what is wrong with us?

Similarly, actress Toyin Abraham showed her disapproval with the judges’ choice to name Bobrisky the winner of the category.

“Bobrisky as the best-dressed female? Are you all insane that Bobrisky is winning Best Female?” she said.

Popular street-hop singer, Habeeb Okikiola known as Portable also blasted the judges for choosing Bobrisky for the award.

“I heard that Bobrisky was given the best-dressed female at a movie premiere, is Bobrisky a woman? He’s not”.

Portable also added that, “What are our children supposed to say? Our children will now imitate Bobrisky, a man who does not possess feminine features, simply because the judges honoured him with an award. Those who should be in prison or punished for disobeying religious commandments and the country’s laws are being celebrated,” he said

A food critic, Opeyemi Famakin (@opeyemifamakin) took to his social media to also address the issue.

“Dear Nigerian women supporting men winning awards all in the name of being woke, be careful. Man are warning you now and you’re shaming us for not being woke like that.

“In no time, these men would start being in female sports and beating you. They’d start entering other female awards and beating you, they’d start entering female toilets and, well, do the maths. And when it happens, only y’all will fight for each other cos the men would say they warned y’all but you shared us for warning,” he stated.

Another social media user on X said “Now, if I say everyone should boycott the so called movie, titled’Beast of two worlds’ until they apologise for this disrespect, you people will say I’m haring. How can Bobrisky (a man) be given the award for ‘best dressed female’ for heaven sake?”

This controversy also generated the conversation on  what Nigerian law says regarding cross-dressing.

What does Nigerian law say about cross-dressing?

A lawyer, Blessing Ibe told The ICIR that, there is no law in Nigeria that addresses cross dressing rather a law promulgated against sexuality within same sex.

“There is no federal law in Nigeria that specifically addresses cross-dressing because of the enshrinement of the freedoms awarded humans in the Constitution.

“However, regulations prohibiting public demonstrations of same-sex affection and gender nonconformity exist in several areas of Nigeria, which may have an impact on people who cross-dress”, she stated.

She further emphasised on the law of same sex marriage stating that “Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013: This law criminalises same-sex marriage, civil unions, and public displays of same-sex affection. It carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison”.

Another lawyer, Favour Chigozie, also collaborated what Ibe says, “Under Nigerian law, cross-dressing is not explicitly illegal, but it can be subject to societal and cultural norms that may frown upon it. Cross-dressing is not regulated but the police can arrest you for public disturbance or nuisance.”

In 2022, the National Assembly proposed a bill seeking to amend the 2013 Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act to criminalise cross-dressing in Nigeria.






     

     

    The bill suggested a punishment of six months imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 for anyone found guilty.

    However, the bill failed to pass the second reading in the House of Representatives following arguments that the bill was unconstitutional and did not reflect Nigeria’s diverse culture.

    Despite the fact that there is no law that outrightly addresses cross dressing in Nigeria, some Nigerians including celebrities are against a cross dresser being awarded as the “Best dressed female”, Like Amusan (earlier mentioned stated) she doesnt have issues with giving cross-dresses awards, but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of women. 

    “If you feel you want to honour cross-dressers, you should have created their own category instead of disrespecting women by giving a cross-dresser the best dressed female award,” she said.

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