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Brunei’s death to gays penal code comes into effect

Nick Duffy April 3, 2019
Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (C) attends an event in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 3, 2019.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (C) attends an event in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 3, 2019. (Getty)

A controversial new penal code in Brunei that punishes homosexuality with death has come into effect.

Despite facing international outcry, the Southeast Asian country’s new Sharia law-based penal code, which makes gay sex an offence punishable by stoning to death, comes into effect on Wednesday (April 3).

The harsh new penal code requires death by stoning for gay sex or adultery, while lesbian sex is punished by 100 lashes with a whip.

The imposition of the new law was first announced in 2014, and was finally enacted this month despite condemnation from human rights chiefs.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech during an event in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 3, 2
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech during an event in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 3, 2019. (Getty)

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, has defended the law despite an international backlash, defending Brunei’s right as a “sovereign Islamic and fully independent country” to “enforce its own rule of laws…like all other independent countries.”

In a statement, the leader’s office claimed that its laws help to “maintain peace and order and preserve religion, life, family and individuals regardless of gender, nationality, race and faith.”

Brunei anti-gay law ‘barbaric to the core’

However, United Nations high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet has condemned the “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments” in the new penal code.

Bachelet had said: “I appeal to the Government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented.”

Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei, but was previously punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said: “Brunei’s new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes.

“Sultan Hassanal should immediately suspend amputations, stoning, and all other rights-abusing provisions and punishments.”

He added: “Every day that Brunei’s penal code is in force is a multifaceted assault on human dignity.

“Governments around the world should make clear to Brunei’s sultan that there can be no business as usual so long as the threat of whipping, stoning or amputation remains on the books.”

Brunei faces international backlash over anti-LGBT law

The law has sparked a celebrity boycott of the luxury Dorchester Collection hotels that are owned by Brunei.

Ellen DeGeneres joined the boycott on Tuesday (April 2), writing on social media: “Tomorrow, the country of Brunei will start stoning gay people to death.

“We need to do something now. Please boycott these hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Raise your voices now. Spread the word. Rise up.”

The US State Department has also joined condemnation of the law.

In a statement on Tuesday, it said the law “runs counter to [Brunei’s] international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

It added: “All governments have an obligation to ensure that all people can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled.

“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 (LGBTI) persons.”

Germany, France and Australia also condemned the law, while the UK government issued travel advice warning British citizens about the risks.

More: Anti-gay, Asia, Brunei, Brunei, Gay, homophobic, LGBT, penal code

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