Bobrisky, a gender-nonconforming Nigerian social media influencer and self-proclaimed “male Barbie,” was arrested earlier this week in Lagos, Okay Africa reports.
Many local news outlets and blogs attributed the arrest to the fact that Bobrisky, born Idris Okuneye Olanrewaju, had just come out as gay in a now-deleted post on social media.
“Yes, it may amount to corrupting public moral when you go on social media to announce you are gay but we are talking about the law here and not sentiment and if we are talking about the law, the person has to be caught in the act,” argued Nigerian lawyer and senior advocate Festus Keyamo. “He can be arrested for saying that he is gay but it must be linked to a gay act that happened. You cannot be arrested for just saying you are gay.”
Although police officials initially denied any knowledge of the arrest, Bobrisky, who has since been released, claims that he was actually arrested by the Lagos State Police Command at Lekki because of a dispute he had with rival entrepreneur Toyin Lawani, who allegedly filed a complaint that the Snapchat star had threatened her and stolen her customers. Lawani has since denied any involvement in the arrest.
True Africa previously reported that Bobrisky has never publicly come out as gay, “despite repeatedly gushing over his married boyfriend—the anonymous older lover who funds his luxurious lifestyle.” The site adds that Bobrisky, who markets his popular line of skin-bleaching cream, “downplays his cross-dressing as a mere marketing ploy for his business.”
Nigeria is one of 72 countries worldwide where homosexual acts are illegal: In the predominantly Christian south, offenders can face up to 14 years in prison; in the northern states, which have adopted sharia law, the maximum punishment is execution by stoning.
Nationwide, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2011 criminalizes entering into a same-sex union or joining an LGBT-rights organization.
More than 50 people were arrested in April for attending what authorities claimed was a gay wedding in Zaria. Following a raid on a hotel in Lagos, police arrested 42 men in July for alleged acts of homosexuality.