Gender DynamiX, the only organisation in Africa focusing on the needs of transgender people, has slammed the recent arrest of 18 men in Nigeria for “cross-dressing.”

The 18 men from Bauchi state in Nigeria were granted bail late last month after being charged with indecent dressing and vagrancy. The news of the arrest spread around the world and renewed concerns about transphobia and homophobia in Nigeria.

Gender DynamiX has strongly objected to the arrests: “Although Gender DynamiX is situated in South Africa we as an organisation feel compelled to express our dismay and raise awareness about the conditions our brothers and sisters across Africa have to live under,” said Gender DynamiX’s Director, Liesl Theron.

Aged between 18 and 21, the men were initially accused of sodomy but this was later changed to “indecent dressing” or cross-dressing and “vagrancy”. According to the Islamic Sharia legal system, they contravened Article 372 section 2(E) of the Bauchi State Islamic code which prohibits cross-dressing and the practice of sodomy.

“Any (male) person who dresses in the fashion of a woman in a public place will be liable to a term of one year or 30 lashes,” a spokesman for the local Sharia police, Muhamad Bununu, told AFP news agency.

“Homosexuality and transgenderism are often “declared” un-African by our African leaders. Politicians and religious leaders follow suit and communities eventually join in too. However, homophobia is the western import, not homosexuality or transgenderism itself,” said Gender DynamiX in a statement.

Gender DynamiX has demanded that the arrests and harassment of trans people be halted in Nigeria and called for the implementation of the Yogyakarta Principles, adopted in November 2006 by legal experts of 25 countries which affirms the rights of all people to dignity and freedom.

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