On the 5th of April, 2022, a member of the National Assembly, Umar Muda, introduced a bill to ban crossdressing. If passed, the bill would outlaw crossdressing.
The bill also seeks to alter the 2013 Same-sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act by inserting crossdressing as one of the act’s offences. But isn’t it absurd that a law-abiding citizen may end up behind bars for something as little as a choice of cloth?
The government must understand that a person’s choice of attire may be described as an expression of individual liberty and autonomy. It is an explicit statement protected under the right to freedom of expression.
The move wouldn’t be the first attempt to clamp down on civil liberty by the government. The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2014 is a classic example of such suppression of freedom of expression and association. However, the proposed bill takes a step further in threatening individualism and freedom of expression. It is appalling that the Nigerian government and lawmakers have their priorities misplaced.
A week before Umar sponsored the bill, a train carrying more than 900 people en route from Abuja to Kaduna was attacked by terrorists. Gunmen mined the vital rail link on 28th March, forcing the train to stop. At least nine passengers died during the attack, and some 168 people were reported missing afterward by the state rail company. No one questioned the Minister of Transport, the Inspector General of Police, or the Nigerian Railway Corporation Chairman.
If crossdressing was banned, it also means that women would no longer be able to wear trousers, men’s shoes, or men’s watches. Banning crossdressing is irrational: it would be unfair to accept that science and technology have evolved, including our culture, without accepting that fashion has also evolved. Crossdressing is part of some people’s identity. For others, it is something done for fun.
The bill would also promote homophobia and transphobia and fuel an unnecessary fire. There are a lot of homosexual men and women who are not interested in crossdressing. They wear conventional clothes because they like them. Being crossdressers is not connected to homosexuality. It is ridiculous to think that putting the bill out would eradicate homosexuality.
The move only shows how authoritarian the Nigerian government can be at times. The bill will lead to discrimination. It will give some people a sense of maltreating others.
For example, even before the End SARS protest, the Nigerian Police have had a long history of brutalizing citizens, and this would be a great opportunity to justify some of the nuisances they constitute. They would use this as an opportunity to harass and extort people. There are more challenging issues to address in the country than how people dress.