The Acting Chief Executive of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, has criticised a boycott of the Brunei-owned Dorchester hotel chain, saying the campaign will only harm Brunei’s LGBT community.
The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, owns The Dorchester Collection. Last month, the Sultan gave approval to Brunei’s new penal code, which urges death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.
BSME said it had been “impossible for us to ignore the recent introduction of draconian new laws imposed by the Sultan of Brunei, the owner of The Dorchester Collection, relating to those involved in same sex or adulterous relationships.”
It added: “There has been much disquiet among the BSME committee regarding the news, to the extent that it was the clear majority view that we simply cannot, with a clear conscience, host an event that represents the magazine industry at the hotel. We have, therefore, taken the decision to withdraw from our agreement with The Dorchester.”
The BSME’s decision was welcomed by Tory peer Lord Deben, better known as John Gummer before his 2010 peerage.
The former Thatcher minister and Conservative Party Chairman told PinkNews.co.uk: “Well done Magazine editors. I think no decent organisation should use a hotel owned by someone who stones women accused of adultery and gay people purely because of their sexuality. I think that everyone should boycott The Dorchester Collection.”
Gay rights charity Stonewall held its annual Equality Dinner at The Dorchester on Park Lane in April. A separate Stonewall event was held a day after the country made death by stoning the punishment for homosexuality.
The charity is under increasing pressure to sever its links with the company and join an international boycott of The Dorchester Collection.
However, writing for Telegraph.co.uk on Friday, Stonewall Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt said it would be the wrong thing to do.
“The fact that there are many other countries that currently have similar laws doesn’t sway our unequivocal view that events in Brunei are an abomination. These acts by the Sultan have led to calls for a boycott of The Dorchester Collection by the great and good of Hollywood. At Stonewall we share the anger and fury of those calling for a boycott but we won’t be joining them.”
Ms Hunt continued: “We are committed to achieving equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people – both here in Great Britain and abroad. We’re renowned for our pragmatism and our belief that talking is usually more effective than protests – however satisfying protests may be, in the short term they’re often most rewarding to the individuals taking part. We only implement actions that we can calculate will have an impact.”
Sympathising with Mr Cowdray’s position, Ms Hunt said: “I do not believe the somewhat beleaguered Christopher Cowdray, Chief Executive of the Collection, can somehow influence the implementation of Sharia criminal code in Brunei.
“He can’t. I do, however, fear that the boycott could do very real harm to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people of Brunei. By turning the issue into a battle between gay people and the Sultan – which it isn’t, it affects everyone in Brunei, not just gay people – we limit the opportunity for dialogue and put the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people of Brunei at far greater risk. A group of people, I hasten to add, who’ve yet to publically call for a boycott.”
A string of celebrities, including Ellen Degeneres, Stephen Fry, Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson and Sharon Osbourne, last month began a boycott campaign against The Dorchester Collection, famous for its Beverly Hills venue.
Beverly Hills council asked the Sultan to sell his Beverly Hills hotel because of his support for the draconian legislation.
Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian became the latest figure to snub The Dorchester Collection.