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

Vancouver Island man who pleaded guilty to beating over drug debt handed nine-year jail sentence

Colin Damen Gary Lamontagne sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo

Vancouver Island’s longest, steepest, zip line nears completion

Mount Washington aims to thrill with 2.3-km drop reaching speeds approaching100 km/hr

Teen viral video star headlining first concert in hometown Nanaimo

Lauren Spencer-Smith, 15, has been recording new songs with Grammy-winning producer

The road to ruin: dealing with Vancouver Island’s dirty little trash secret

Ongoing illegal dumping problem near Ladysmith symbolic of a bigger issue

Editorial: It’s hard to believe people still drink and drive

People cannot claim ignorance, or lack of options, it’s laziness and stupidity, pure and simple

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Injured fawn at B.C. vet will be euthanized Friday night unless claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer is currently being treated at West Kelowna’s Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

Trudeau in Victoria to announce $79M investment in public transit

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund 118 more buses across B.C. to cut commutes

Most Read