Homosexuality, Adultery Now Punishable With Death by Stoning in Brunei

AFP  Getty Images
AFP Getty Images

05 April, 2019

The new penal code has been globally condemned by LGBT rights groups and world leaders, as well as celebrities, many of whom have urged people to boycott the sultan's top luxury hotels.

The United States has joined the worldwide criticism of Brunei's harsh new law that allows stoning to death for Muslims convicted of homosexual sex and adultery.

The tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical Borneo island, a Muslim-majority former British protectorate with a population of around 400,000, is fully coming into force following years of delays.

Yesterday, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, rolled out new Sharia law punishments that imposed death by stoning or whipping for people who engage in gay sex or adultery.

"If implemented in its current form (the code) would enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach global human rights law - including death by stoning", she said in a statement.

The threat of the death penalty is apparently chiefly aimed at gay men, although experts are doubtful that executions will actually be carried out.

And on April 2, DeGeneres joined the campaign, tweeting: "We need to do something now".

Students at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London have also called for a school building named the Brunei Gallery to be renamed.

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Responding on behalf of the Opposition, Khalid Mahmood MP and said: "What we have seen in Brunei in the past week with these proposed new laws has been shocking and shameful, but has also been deeply sad".

Brunei, an ASEAN country, has announced the introduction of draconian sharia criminal laws. But this week, Bolkiah defied critics and enacted legislation that allows ruthless punishments, some of which may even apply to children and non-Muslim foreigners.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it has updated its travel advice for Brunei to more explicitly outline the possible use of the death penalty and physical punishments for a range of offences.

The harsh penal code will also apply to citizens who are caught being adulterous under the sultanate's Sharia Penal Code, according to the country's attorney general.

Her social media posts then listed a number of high-profile hotels around the globe, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, that she said should be boycotted to protest Brunei's implementation of the law.

Celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have voiced opposition to the new laws, and have rallied a boycott of nine hotels in the USA and Europe with ties to Hassanal, who is still sultan.

In a public address to mark a special date in the Islamic calendar, the sultan called for stronger Islamic teachings but did not mention the new penal code.

Before the sharia punishments came into effect, sex between men was already punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

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