A new law coming into effect today in the small oil-rich nation of Brunei will punish gay sex with death by stoning, causing public outcry around the world
The Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has said he wants stronger Islamic teachings in Brunei. Under the Sharia Criminal Code, which will be applied alongside the former British protectorate’s existing Common Law system, offences including rape, sodomy, adultery, robbery and insulting the Prophet Muhammad could result in a death sentence, according to reports. Theft is punishable by amputation of the hand, and women who receive an abortion could face public flogging.
The laws were announced in 2014, and have been gradually rolled out. Despite the ongoing outcry, the tiny kingdom of just over 450,000 people located on the island of Borneo has said it has no plans to change the law.
“We continue to be extremely concerned by what’s happening in Brunei,” Leanne MacMillan, Director of International Campaigns at LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall stated. Stonewall, along with many other LGBT groups and human rights organisations, strongly condemn this alarming situation.
“Since the news broke last week, we’ve seen so many people and organisations from across the world speak out and voice their disgust. We are raising our concerns with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and will continue to stand in solidarity with LGBT people in Brunei,” Leanne stated.
Celebrities and politicians alike are speaking out about the issue, calling on people to boycott several hotels around the world owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, including The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane in London and others in Paris, Beverly Hills, Rome and Milan.
The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt said on Twitter, “No one should face the death penalty because of who they love. Brunei’s decision is barbaric and the UK stands with the LGBT+ community and those who defend their rights. LGBT+ rights are human rights.”
Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden said in a Twitter post on Friday that there is “no excuse for this kind of hate and inhumanity.”
Actor George Clooney said in column that two of the Los Angeles hotels connected to Brunei were boycotted a couple years ago for the country’s treatment of the gay community, which was effective, but he says the focus has died down.
“It was effective to a point. We cancelled a big fundraiser for the Motion Picture Retirement Home that we’d hosted at the Beverly Hills Hotel for years. Lots of individuals and companies did the same. But like all good intentions when the white heat of outrage moves on to the hundred other reasons to be outraged, the focus dies down and slowly these hotels get back to the business of business. And the Brunei Investment Agency counts on that. They own nine of the most exclusive hotels in the world.”
Elton John echoed Clooney’s call for the boycott, stating that he believes he and his husband David deserve to be treated with dignity and respect wherever they go, along with all LGBTQ+ people.
“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Brunei Researcher, stated.
“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice. Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”
A Change.org petition, “Condemn persecution of LGBT people in Brunei” is calling for Paul Scully MP, who is the UK’s trade envoy to Brunei, and Richard Graham MP, who is the UK trade envoy to ASEAN (of which Brunei is a member) to publicly condemn the barbaric laws.