UK foreign office minister Mark Field has suggested the Sultan of Brunei imposed a ‘death to gays’ law because he got “a little more devout as he has got older.”
The Conservative minister was speaking in Parliament on Thursday (April 4) after MPs raised objections to over Brunei’s harsh new penal code, which allow death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex or adultery.
During the debate, Mark Field dismissed MPs’ calls for Brunei to be suspended from the Commonwealth, adding that the row over the penal code “gives a misleading impression of what is a friendly and generous place.”
Tory minister Mark Field: Sultan of Brunei has ‘become a little more devout’
Referring to the country’s unelected dictator Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Field said: “The Sultan of Brunei has been a great friend of this country over many years.
“He has, I think, become a little more devout as he has got older, which is one reason why the sharia code—based, of course, on the Saudi Arabian sharia code—has been put in place.
“However, I am hopeful that we can continue to have a positive and constructive dialogue on this issue, with Brunei and with a number of countries that we would like to see making changes in future.”
He added: “I very much agree with the sentiment of the House that the imposition of a sharia penal code is a backward step as far as Brunei is concerned, but progress is being made elsewhere and we will continue to work within the broad international community and the Commonwealth to ensure that countries come on board.
“The best way to do that, rather than threatening to kick countries out of the Commonwealth, is to try to hold them close and recognise the strong connections.”
Tory minister: Brunei penal code violates international human rights law
Field, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, also said that the penal code violates international human rights laws, echoing comments from the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland.
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He said: “I want to be absolutely clear about the UK’s position on this: this Government consider it appalling that, in the 21st century, people anywhere are still facing potential persecution and discrimination because of who they are and whom they love. We strongly support and defend the rights of the LGBT+ community here in the UK and all around the world.
“We absolutely oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and in all forms, and we do not believe that amputation or stoning are legitimate or acceptable punishments. Indeed, we consider them to be illegal under international human rights laws relating to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”
“We will continue to oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and promote the rights of LGBT+ people.”
Field said: “I will continue to urge the Government of Brunei to take all necessary steps to reassure their own people, the United Kingdom and the wider international community that they are fully committed to allowing all citizens and residents of Brunei to live with dignity, and free from violence, discrimination or persecution.
“As an integral part of our foreign policy work around the world, we will continue to oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and promote the rights of LGBT+ people. Nobody should face punishment for who they are or whom they love.”
Brunei is far from alone in the Commonwealth in imposing anti-LGBT laws,
36 of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth continue to criminalise same-sex acts, primarily under laws imposed during the British Colonial era that were never repealed.
More than a billion people live under anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth.
In 2018,Theresa May told Commonwealth leaders that the UK “deeply regrets” its legacy on anti-gay laws.