It’s a scary time to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Brunei. According to recent reports, the country is planning to introduce new laws that would punish same gender couples with either beating or stoning to death.
Under current laws implemented in Brunei, same sex marriage is considered illegal and those convicted for being gay may be punished by long term imprisonment. Not surprisingly, the new legislation faced immediate backlash.
In a Mirror interview, Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International, said:
“Pending provisions in Brunei’s Penal Code would allow stoning and amputation as punishments – including for children, to name only their most heinous aspects.
“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations.
“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”
Brunei started to implement stricter anti-gay laws in 2014. The law also included fines and jail time for pregnancy outside of marriage or failure to do Friday prayers.
Meanwhile, Hassanal Bolkiah, the sultan of Brunei, initially described the new law as a” great achievement,” adding:
“The decision to implement the (penal code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Quran.”
International protests has since been launched with several countries such as United States, Britain, France, and Germany voicing their opposition to the law. Even celebrities like George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, and Elton John joined in condemning the brutal punishment.
Some even called the public to boycott hotels owned by the sultan such as “the Dorchester Hotel in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles,” according to a NYTimes report.
Eventually, Hassanal defended there were “many questions and misperceptions with regard to the (law’s) implementation.” He also said:
“As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the Shariah penal code.”
Some people, however, remain unconvinced.
“The reality is this is all about trying to abate the international pressure coming on Brunei,” commented Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. The sultan “is obviously realizing there is a larger opposition to this law out in the international community and the Brunei brand is taking a hard hit.”
Robertson further said:
“It was never explained why he came out with this law, it was never explained why they were needed. He says there’s a moratorium today, but he could change his mind tomorrow. When lawmaking is done in this way, the pledges of an authoritarian leader whose word is essentially law need to be taken with a grain of salt.”
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