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Bill against Cross Dressing is Lawful, Good for Nigeria

Bill against Cross Dressing is Lawful, Good for Nigeria

Bill against Cross Dressing is Lawful, Good for Nigeria. 

By Manfred Ekpe, Esq


I have read diverse legal and other opinions about the anti cross dressing bill ongoing in the House of Representatives. Some argue that such law will be unconstitutional because the National Assembly cannot make law to regulate  dress code in Nigeria or make such law to bind all states. Secondly, that the constitution guarantees right to freedom of expression and that expression is not limited to speech but also via dressing. And that in a secular society and liberal democracy like Nigeria, dress code cannot be regulated, among other arguments.

I beg to differ, most respectfully from such reasoning. 

Firstly, there is distinction between dress code and cross dressing. According to Wikipedia, Cross-dressing is the act of wearing items of clothing not commonly associated with one’s sex, while dress code according to the same source is defined as:

“A set of rules…with regards to what clothing groups of people must wear. Dress codes are created out of social perceptions and norms, and vary based on purpose, circumstances, and occasions. Different societies and cultures are likely to have different dress codes, Western dress codes being a prominent example”. 

From the above definition, the former refers to style of dressing while the latter is improper dressing choice against societal norms.  While it may be against the principles of liberal democracy such as ours to regulate dress code such as in North Korea, it is lawful to regulate cross dressing because it is improper and against the norm of society. Government has the competence to preserve societal norms. 

Secondly, it is my opinion that it is within the competence of the National Assembly to make laws regulating good conduct and standards necessary for a morally upright society. The duty of government is not only to make laws to regulate business or other official conducts in society but also to regulate standard of behavior acceptable in society. In  a highly religious society like Nigeria, government has not only the competence but the duty to outlaw conducts capable of eroding religious norms which is a part of the people’s culture. According to The World Factbook of the CIA 2018, Nigeria is made up of Muslim (53.5%) Christian (45.9%)

Others (0.6%). Non of these religions tolerate immorality including immoral dressing such as cross dressing. The Bible in Deut 22:5 prohibits cross dressing. The Qur’an too prohibits the practice. The other 0.6% including Traditional religions all forbid that act seen as abomination. Government has the duty to protect these societal norms of Nigeria notwithstanding western liberal democracy ideology.

In looking at why the National Assembly is coming up with this law, the court cannot overlook the background, causation, reason or the mischief it seeks to remedy. Undoubtedly, one Bobrisky, a male has taken to dressing and behaving like a beautiful girl boasting on the social media about the number of men sleeping with him and how much the trade is enriching him. His conduct promotes homosexuality which is against the law and is eroding moral standards of our children and youths. But unfortunately there is no law to stop this menace. 

Government also has the duty to regulate conduct in society that will not reduce children and youths to a heap of immorality. On these grounds I submit that the National Assembly has the right to make law banning cross dressing  and Bobrisky’s kind of adventure. Government has the duty not  to allow males to freely  dress, act like or impersonate females as a societal norm  and vice versa, and to freely lure same sex, which is an act likely to promote homosexuality frowned at by law. There is nothing wrong in making law to prohibit conduct likely to lead to the promotion of offensive conduct or commission of an offense such as homosexuality.

Cross dressing for entertainment purposes is an exception since this is not impersonation and the mens rea or mental element of cross dressing as a social norm is absent. And I don’t think the bill will prohibit cross dressing for entertainment purposes. 

More so, it is not out of order for government to make laws to protect the moral fabric of society in line with the customs and religious practices of the people. The doctrines of  both Islam and Christianity which are the major religions in Nigeria, as well as other traditional and minority religions, and the several customs of Nigerian societies are against the imported practice of  cross dressing. Inasmuch as Parliament has powers to regulate conduct against imported practices of homosexuality, bestiality etc and governments of the Islamic parts of the country has powers to regulate alcoholic intake in tune with the religious, moral and  customs of that society, then government cannot be ousted of powers to prohibit cross dressing which is alien to Nigeria, disgusting to most citizens, preached against in churches and mosques and condemned by families. 

In fact to my mind  government has the duty to prohibit same in line with the moral standard of society. With respect, liberal democracy doesn’t mean unchecked freedoms. 

Thirdly, I agree that the Nigerian  constitution 1999 as altered, guarantees right to freedom of expression, I also agree that dressing may be a form of expression. But I must say that this right is derogable  under the constitution. To that extent, the law does not guarantee unchecked and unregulated expression. Hence the axiomatic expression that freedom of expression is absolutely guaranteed but freedom after expression may no longer be guaranteed if such expression violates the law.

In further demonstration, the fact that we are constitutionally  allowed to express ourselves by speech, dress code, conduct, action etc does not give unlimited guarantee to such expressions. For instance, because a man is allowed to express his sexual desire to a lady does not allow him to pull out his private part and perform his expression whether in public or private place else it may amount to an offense of indecent assault.  The fact that Nigerians are allowed to express themselves via dressing styles does not permit a girl to dress only on shimmy without panties to attend church, court session or even walk in public place for the purpose of expressing that she is “available”. There are laws regulating such conduct of expressions. 

Lastly, the act of girls soliciting for sex at bar, clubs and public places are forms of expression yet prohibited by law. I see no reason why it is not within the competence of Parliament to make law prohibiting expression of any kind through cross dressing which is immoral to the Nigerian society. 


Manfred Ekpe, Esq.

 (Lawyer, activist, writer).  


This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation ( funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International ( The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.


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6 Responses

  1. I don’t agree with your submissions. Nigeria should leave cross dressers alone. We have a lot on our hands to focus on irrelevant issues like cross dressing. Let’s focus on economic development and not minor issues like cross dressing.

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