Deut 22.5 : Is it a sin for a woman to wear trouser?

By Fr. Henry Charles Umelechi (Fr. Truth Series)

“A woman must not dress like a man, nor a man like a woman; anyone who does this is detestable to Yahweh your God.” -Deut 22:5


Many people always refer to Deuteronomy 22:5 against women that wear trouser. But, Deuteronomy 22:5 is not an injunction against women that wear trousers either specifically or by implication, because looking at the context and background, this very verse is simply against:

1. Idolatry

2. Prostitution(male and female)

3. Homosexuality or gayness

4. Transvestism (crossing dressing)


1. Idolatry: Israelites who were given this very instruction were yet to live in the “promised land.” That promised land is Canaan ( Exod 6:4; Lev. 14:34). However, Canaan already had people(cananites) living in it before the repossession by Israelites and they already have their own god and ways of the worship.

However, God warned the Israelites never to emulate neither the culture of Egypt where they were coming from, nor the culture of Canaan where they were going into, including their ways of worship(Lev. 18:8). The reason is simple; they now have only one God; Yahweh Saboath (Exod. 20:1-5), otherwise, they shall begin to follow the false god’s and religious ways of Egyptians or Canaanites. Hence, idolatry. One of the consequences of this idolatry is cultic prostitution and uncensored immorality.

2. Cultic Prostitution: Here, the temple of the cananites’ deities(goddess of fertility and bisexual god) were attached brothels, which were served by men and women consecrated to the dieties, and these consecrated persons represented these deities. The worshippers inorder to unite themselves with these deities and obtain renewal of their vital forces, had to have sexual relations with these consecrated men and women. Now, one understands why Deuteronomy 23:18 says “There must be no sacred prostitute among the women of Israel, and no sacred prostitute among the men of Israel.”

So, when the Israelites possessed the land of Canaan, some of them started following the ways of the Canaanites even in worship. Consequently, worshippers whether male or female engage in sexual relationships; man to man or woman, woman to man or woman. Of this, the Psalmist says of these idols “Their makers will end up like them, and all who rely on them” (Psalm 115:8). This led to or promoted homosexuality.

3. Homosexuality or gayness: This temple prostitution now leads to homosexuality whereby a man sleeps with a man as he does with a woman and some women sleep with fellow women as they do with men, since what they cared for was the unity with their dieties and reinforcement of their vital forces and not morality of their actions. This is an abomination before God

(Lev 18:22; 20:13). This attitude affected the sexual habits of some Israelites and led them to transvestism even outside the temple cultic practices.

4. Transvestism: Transvestism is a situation whereby a person sometimes wears clothes traditionally worn by and associated with the opposite sex; typically a male who cross-dresses occasionally by habit or personal choice. In another hand, it is a mental situation whereby someone cross-dresses in order to get an abnormal sexual arousal. Transvestites always gain the sexual attention of their own gender.

Moreso, in order to endear their patronizers to themselves, some male temple prostitutes dress like female to engage in sexual relationship with fellow man and so with some female temple prostitutes.

Some Israelites became transvestites because of the effects of temple prostitution and the cananite cultic practices mentioned in nos. 2 and 3. Some who by tendency were transvestites whether as a mental situation or personal choice, if they participate in the idolatrous cultic practices, would easily flow into becoming temple prostitutes.

One may ask: “Which gender owns trouser traditionally?”

In 2014, a study published in the journal Quaternary International discovered the earliest known examples of trousers in western China, dating back to around 3,000 to 3,300 BC.

Moreover, “archaeologists speculate that these trousers were invented for riding, as they provide protection while allowing the rider flexibility and freedom of movement.”

However, “it is worth noting that while trousers were predominantly a male garment in many cultures, women also wore trousers in certain societies, particularly those where horse riding was common for both genders.”

Infact, “the use of trousers began to spread with the advent of horseback riding and the strategic advantage it provided for warfare.”

The above shows that wearing of trouser was a borrowed culture in many climes and that women also wore trousers in the culture from where it was borrowed for: horse-riding, warfare, protection, flexibility and freedom of movement.

What it entails is that any culture that should borrow the use of trouser should understand the reason why trouser was invented, otherwise shows ignorance in its application which often leads to extreme rigidity, uninformed and inconsiderate religiosity.

So, what now?

Deut 22.5 is not against trouser but against cross-dressers. A woman that wears trouser is not primarily cross dressing as their are decent trousers that were traditionally, meant for women and the ones meant for men, just the way there are decent tops made traditionally for men and women differently and purposely for flexibility, protection, and freedom of movement.

We should be more worried when a man wears a trouser that’s meant for women, and when men are trying to become women and when women are trying to wear clothes meant for men, like the contemporary cross dressers, and transgenders. Let the masculine gender remain so and let the feminine gender remain so.

It would be incomplete if it’s not stated that, it’s not a sin for a woman to wear trouser but it’s a sin for a woman or a man to wear provocative and indecent trousers, just like it’s not a sin to eat but it’s a sin to over eat and that’s gluttony. Just like it’s not a sin to talk with one’s mouth but it’s a sin to make false statements against a neighbor and that’s slander. The list could go on.

Moreso, Deuteronomy 22:5 by context and background points more towards men than to women.

Fr. Henry Charles Umelechi is a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha.


•The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Edited by Raymond E. Brown, S.S.; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.; Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm.

•”The Invention of Trousers: A History of the Garment That Transformed Humanity”

• New Jerusalem Bible, V 38(apk version)

• Dictionary; English (apk version)



Also read: The Rich Atheist and the Rich Christian

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