Brunei invokes laws allowing stoning for gay sex, adultery

The penalties were provided for under new sections of Brunei’s Shariah Penal Code

In this Oct, 10, 2013, photo, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah speaks during the closing ceremony and handover of the ASEAN Chairmanship to Myanmar in Bandar Seri Begawan. The sultan announced to implement Islamic criminal laws that punishes gay sex by stoning offenders to death. The legal change in the tiny, oil-rich monarchy, which also includes amputation for theft, is due to come into force Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

New Islamic criminal laws that took effect in Brunei on Wednesday, punishing gay sex and adultery by stoning offenders to death, have triggered an outcry from countries, rights groups and celebrities far beyond the tiny Southeast Asian nation’s shores.

The penalties were provided for under new sections of Brunei’s Shariah Penal Code. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah instituted the code in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the oil-rich monarchy of around 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim.

READ MORE: ‘Gaybourhoods’ are expanding, not disappearing: UBC study

Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable in Brunei by a jail term of up to 10 years. The first stage of the Shariah Penal Code included fines or jail for offences such as pregnancy out of wedlock or failing to pray on Fridays.

But under the new laws — which also apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim — those found guilty of gay sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offence and a left foot on their second.

“Living in Brunei, we already knew that our sexual identity is taboo and should not be expressed. We already felt belittled before the law came to place,” said a 23-year-old member of the LGBTQ community who wanted to be identified only as Kun out of fear of reprisal from the authorities.

“Now with it, we feel even smaller and the ones who could potentially oppress us have more opportunity to harass us to say and do what they want,” he said.

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 U.S. and Europe with ties to Hassanal, who is still sultan.

“Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?” Clooney wrote Thursday on Deadline Hollywood.

Clooney said that while you can’t shame “murderous regimes,” you can shame “the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them.”

Customers at two prestigious Paris hotels owned by the sultan expressed their support for a boycott.

Outside the Le Meurice hotel, Philippe Ménager said he was no longer comfortable going to the spa after being a regular customer for 15 years.

“I can’t continue to be a frequent visitor of the hotels of this savage to preserve the jobs of the people who work at Le Meurice – who are very nice and I like them,” he said.

A tourist from Norway, Anja Anderson, said she would have stayed at a hotel other than the Plaza Athénée had she heard about the boycott before making her reservation.

There has been no vocal opposition to the new penalties in Brunei, where the sultan rules as head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism of his policies is extremely rare in the country.

Hassanal, who has reigned since 1967, has previously said the Penal Code should be regarded as a form of “special guidance” from God and would be “part of the great history” of Brunei.

On Tuesday, the United States joined the United Kingdom, Germany and France in urging Brunei to halt its plans.

“The United States strongly opposes violence, criminalization and discrimination targeting vulnerable groups, including women at risk of violence, religious and ethnic minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

Brunei’s Southeast Asian neighbours, some of whom have laws banning sex between men, were silent.

But LGBTQ citizens of other nearby Muslim-majority countries were concerned about the broad penalties.

“I am very worried that Indonesia or Malaysia may follow the lead,” said a 24-year-old man from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Ludwig. “I think people nowadays, especially the younger generation, are quite OK with LGBT, but those who are not make the loudest noise and they are the reason why it seems like everyone is against it.”

Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 32 million people are Muslim. They are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues. Last year, two Malaysian Muslim women were convicted under Islamic laws and caned for attempting to have sex with each other.

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Brunei’s government to “stop the entry into force of this Draconian new penal code.”

“Any religion-based legislation must not violate human rights, including the rights of those belonging to the majority religion as well as of religious minorities and non-believers,” she said in a statement on Monday.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, called on the sultan to “immediately suspend amputations, stoning, and all other rights-abusing provisions and punishments.”

“Brunei’s new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes,” Robertson said in a statement Wednesday.

Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International, decried the “vicious” laws and asked the international community to condemn them.

Annabelle Liang, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Many teens unaware if they’re vaping nicotine or not

Health Canada survey finds many youth are unaware of the risks of using nicotine products

UVic partners with harm reduction groups to run a drug checking pilot project

The three-year pilot will allow people to test their drugs for fatal ingredients like fentanyl

Public asked to give feedback on proposed protection measures for southern resident orcas

Measures focus on key threats related to contaminants, lack of prey, noise or physical disturbance

Oak Bay double murder trial enters second week

Defence continues to question police handling of crime scene

Highway 1 just south of Malahat Drive to see lane expansion

Langford stretch between Leigh Road and Westshore Parkway will see additional lane and median

WATCH: Police call Happy Valley shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident

One person in custody, another fled following crash on Kelly Road

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

VIDEO: Duncan-Nanaimo’s Funkanometry bow out of ‘World of Dance’ with ‘After Hours’ routine

Judges praised them as entertainers, and urged them to work a bit more on their dancing

Most Read