Brave young Nigerians protest ‘Cross Dressers bill’

nigeria queer protest cross dressers bill
Image: Twitter

A group of brave young activists mounted the first-ever queer protest in Nigeria on Sunday against a proposed ‘Cross Dressers bill’. Despite the joyful demeanour of the protestors, they risk very real danger in a country that criminalises gay sex acts and where LGBTIQ+ people regularly face extreme violence including murder.

As one local activist tweeted, these brave young Nigerians put their lives on the line.

The ‘Cross Dressers bill’

The protestors demanded the government revoke the ‘Cross Dressers bill’  put to the National Assembly last week. The bill proposes that ‘a person engaging in crossdressing is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment of 6 months or to a fine of five hundred thousand naira’.  500,000 Nigerian Naira is about AU$1,700 and more than most Nigerians earn in a year.

The proposed bill also includes an amendment to make ‘crossdressing’ an extra offence under the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2013. Following last week’s first reading, the bill will go through second and third readings before facing a vote.

The only exemption offered under the proposed bill is for entertainers.

No Queer Liberation without Trans Liberation

Protestors wore shirts and carried placards with messages like ‘No Queer Liberation without Trans Liberation’ and also, ‘Trans Lives Matter’.

A particularly resonant placard read ‘The scapegoating of minorities can’t keep imperialist collaborators in power forever’.

The persecution of LGBTIQ+ people in former colonies does indeed result from imperialism. When the European powers set out to colonise the world, they encountered gay and transgender people across the planet. However, they did not find homophobia or transphobia. They imported that and then legislated and enforced their own prejudice. Yet another modern-day consequence of colonisation — the continued persecution of LGBTIQ+ people.

In recent decades, human rights advances in western countries often translated into diminished persecution elsewhere. Some authoritarian regimes became reluctant to openly persecute LGBTIQ+ people for fear of losing foreign aid. However, the west’s influence on human rights can also work negatively.

Violence and extrajudicial executions

When bigots demonise LGBTIQ+ people in western countries, they gift authoritarian regimes licence to crack down on minorities including turning a blind eye or even encouraging police violence and extrajudicial executions.

As another placard read, ‘We the people, unsubdued, demand our rights and freedoms”.


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