The word “transgression” can be traced back to Middle English, Middle French, and Latin. In Middle English, it is transgressioun, while in Middle French and Latin, it is transgression and tr?nsgressus respectively. Overall, Middle French appears to be the “decider” of which of the forms is used today.
Meanwhile, this piece does not seek to examine history; rather, it seeks to locate two cases within the context of the word as defined by various scholars and philosophers. In the previous piece, I discussed how academics define the term from sociological, anthropological, and philosophical perspectives. In addition to a series of books on the word in relation to others in the fields of social sciences and humanities, there are millions of contents available on the Internet.
Between 2004 and 2022, netizens in Jamaica, Ghana, Zambia, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Singapore, and Kenya developed a significant interest in understanding the word through the Internet using Google Search Engine. Apart from searching for the word in order to obtain specific information about it, netizens in these countries also searched the Internet in order to learn more about immorality in relation to the word. This is not surprising because it is expected that they will easily associate the word with actions that do not conform to their society’s established norms and values.
Protest against police brutality
The protest began as a small campaign following the death of a man by the Nigeria Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad. The unit was formed in 1992 with the goal of responding quickly to robbery incidents across the country. However, in October 2020, after several years of the unit’s inhumane treatment, a video recorded to seek justice for the killed man went viral, sparking a nationwide protest. The protest gained traction online, with approximately 28 million tweets with the hashtag accumulating on Twitter alone (Ozulumba, 2021). According to my understanding of transgression, this incident could be classified as transgression because of the police’s inability to comply with existing methods of respecting and protecting people’s fundamental human rights.
Tiwa Savage’s leaked sex tap
Nigerians were inundated with information about Tiwa Savage’s leaked sex tap in October 2021. She is a well-known Afrobeat artist in Nigeria. According to her, her lover accidentally posted the tape on Snapchat and deleted it after realizing his mistake, but it had already been downloaded by a stalker (BBC, 2021). The stalker reposted it in order to extort money from her. However, Tiwa Savage responded that what she did was not wrong because it was natural for a human. She said “for doing something that is natural”. “I am that crazy I could put it out myself – you are not making any money off me.” Many people chastised her for filming sex acts in order to gain popularity. Others see it as the boyfriend’s attempt to harm her reputation. In other words, people are both sympathetic and insensitive to her situation. This situation aligns with Nagel’s (2017) submission that “the act of suicide and the displays of insensitivity toward suicide victims are forms of transgression,” (p.33).
It is clear from the conceptualization of transgression and the cases discussed that transgressive culture could be developed, fostered, and disseminated in different ways using new technologies. While Snapchat was used to infringe on the popular singer’s privacy, Twitter was effectively used to expose Nigerian police officers’ non-compliance with the laws governing how they should engage with the public and respecting their fundamental rights.
In both cases, I believe that online transgression culture will continue to have mixed results with serious consequences for personal and societal reputation in countries where people have no restrictions on what they can create and communicate through digital platforms. Gournelos & Gunkel (2011) stress this thus: “To understand what is possible in our world, we need to understand our limitations and those locations, moments, and techniques by which those limitations are most effectively (and ineffectively) challenged,” (p.3).