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Brunei begins implementation of new Islamic penal code

Homosexuality and adultery to be punished by stoning

Brunei introduced a new Islamic penal code May 1 that calls for death by stoning for gay sex. Credit: raredelights.com

Brunei will begin a phased-in implementation of a new Islamic penal code from May 1 that prescribes stoning as punishment for adultery and homosexuality.

The law, which was expected to be introduced last month but was delayed, will be brought in over a three-year period. According to the Brunei Times, offences that are penalized with fines and prison time will be part of the first phase, corporal punishment will be enforced in the second phase, and the death penalty will be implemented in the third.

The United Nations, international human rights groups that include Amnesty International, and LGBT advocacy groups in Asia have condemned the law, which was first announced by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in October last year. At that time, Bolkiah characterized the measure as “a special guidance from Allah to us all,” adding that it is “now part of the great history of our nation.”

Midnight Poonkasetwattana, executive director of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) says, “This law carries heavy and degrading penalties that create barriers towards enjoying the right to sexual health, especially in accessing preventive measures that will protect people from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. This law will further, if not lead to, discrimination against gay and transgender people.” 

At a press conference, a spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights said, “The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private . . . violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. The provisions of the revised penal code may encourage further violence and discrimination against women and also against people on the basis of sexual orientation.”

A number of gay rights groups have called for a boycott of hotel chains and properties owned by Bolkiah; these include The Dorchester, Coworth Park and 45 Park Lane in London; the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hotel Bel-Air, and Hotel Eden in the United States; Principe di Savoia in Italy; and Hotel Le Meurice in Paris, the International Business Times reports.

While an LGBT conference that was to be held at the Beverly Hills Hotel has already been cancelled, a number of celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Osbourne and Stephen Fry, have announced they will be boycotting Brunei-owned businesses.