Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah of Brunei — Photo: United Nations Photo / Cia Pak
Brunei is preparing to implement a new penal code that will mandate death by stoning for anyone convicted of having gay sex.
According to Gay Star News, the next stages of the country’s Sharia Penal Code (SPC) will come into effect on April 3, and includes death by stoning as punishment for those convicted of sodomy in the Southeast Asian country.
Brunei announced in 2014 that it would implement its new penal code in three phases, gradually replacing secular law with Sharia law at the national level. Death by stoning will be included as one of a number of new laws in the second and third phases of implementation — both set to take place on April 3.
Amnesty International slammed the penal code — based on Islamic law — for its “vicious” sentences, which also include punishments such as limb amputation for anyone convicted of theft.
“To legalize such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International, told the Associated Press, adding that some of the offenses “should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”
“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its penal code in compliance with its human rights obligations,” Chhoa-Howard said. “The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”
The Human Rights Campaign slammed Brunei for becoming one of only a handful of countries worldwide that impose the death penalty for consensual same-sex relations.
“We are facing a dangerous crisis as Brunei is close to implementing laws that impose state-sponsored torture and murder of LGBTQ people,” HRC Global Director Ty Cobb said in a statement. “It’s absolutely crucial that the international community speak out now and demand that the Sultan of Brunei stop these barbaric changes that threaten the lives of Brunei citizens. The Trump-Pence Administration must also immediately make clear that these outrageous human rights abuses will not be tolerated.”
Matthew Woolfe, founder and director of The Brunei Project, which advocates for LGBTQ rights in the country, told Gay Star News that the new penal code is “horrendous and unjustifiable.”
“While homosexual acts were already criminalized in Brunei under laws that were inherited from British colonial rule, we are going to see this taken to a new level,” he said. “Whippings and stoning to death [will be] added to the punishments potentially facing LGBT+ in Brunei if they are found guilty of engaging in same-sex relations.”
Brunei began introducing Islamic — or Sharia — law in 2014. Previously, under secular law homosexuality was illegal and punishable by 10 years in prison.
Speaking in 2014, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian that the new penal code was “a return to medieval punishment. It’s a huge step back for human rights in [the country] and totally out of step with the 21st century.”
The announcement also led to a raft of criticism from politicians and celebrities and boycotts of properties owned by Hassanal Bolkiah, sultan of Brunei, including The Beverly Hills Hotel.
And in 2017, the U.S. Department of State highlighted a number of additional concerns for LGBTQ people in the country.
“The SPC bans ‘liwat’ (anal intercourse) between men or between a man and a woman who is not his wife,” the State Department said in a report. “If implemented, this law would impose death by stoning. The SPC also prohibits men from dressing as women or women dressing as men ‘without reasonable excuse’ or ‘for immoral purposes.’ There were no known convictions during the year.
“Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community reported unofficial and societal discrimination in public and private employment, housing, recreation, and in obtaining services including education from state entities. LGBTI individuals reported intimidation by police, including threats to make public their sexuality, to hamper their ability to obtain a government job, or to bar graduation from government academic institutions. Members of the LGBTI community reported the government monitored their activities and communications. Events on LGBTI topics were subject to restrictions on assembly and expression. The LGBTI community reported that the government would not issue permits for such events.”