Metro Weekly

Ellen DeGeneres supports hotel boycott protesting Brunei’s anti-gay law

Human rights observer says rightward shift in global politics made Brunei believe it could avoid public scrutiny and criticism

Photo: The Ellen Show

Ellen DeGeneres is throwing her support behind a boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei in protest of that country’s anti-gay stoning law.

The law, which took effect Wednesday, mets out harsh punishments for violations of Sharia law, including stoning to death as a punishment for same-sex relations, as well as for rape, adultery, robbery, or insulting or defaming the prophet Muhammad.

Women who have abortions will be publicly flogged, thieves have their hands amputated, and it will be illegal to expose Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion besides Islam, reports The Guardian.

In a tweet issued on Tuesday, DeGeneres urged her fans to take action by boycotting the hotels, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and The Bel Air in Los Angeles, Calif., which are owned by the Brunei Investment Agency.

“Tomorrow, the country of #Brunei will start stoning gay people to death. We need to do something now,” she wrote. “Please boycott these hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Raise your voices now. Spread the word. Rise up.”

DeGeneres’ support comes after actor George Clooney and pop legend Elton John voiced their support for the boycott

Clooney first proposed the idea in a guest column for Deadline in which he urged supporters of LGBTQ rights to find other ways to ensure their money is not being used to “fund the murder of innocent citizens.”

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled Brunei for over 50 years, is one of the richest men in the world, and a strong supporter of Sharia law, something he emphasized in a recent televised speech to the nation, reports Agence France-Presse.

“I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger,” he said. “I would like to emphasize that the country of Brunei is a … country that always devotes its worship to Allah.”

Neela Ghoshal, a researcher of LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch, notes that the law was first proposed in 2013 but was largely delayed because of public backlash from the international community at the time.

“I think the push for this to be implemented now came because the sultan has always wanted this law,” Ghoshal said. “I think there was a lot of public outcry in 2013 that forced them to take a step back, and this time, they tried to do it very quietly. There was a notice published on the attorney general’s website in December saying the law would be implemented in April, but it didn’t come with any broader public statement. The government didn’t really announce this…. My sense is the government was always committed to enacting this law in full, but wanted the noise around it to quiet down.”

Ghoshal notes that the geopolitical situation has changed significantly from five years ago, particularly with the election of right-wing and populist governments throughout the world — which serve to enable anti-LGBTQ forces.

“There are a number of governments that are quite conservative around sexual rights and LGBT rights, both in the United States and in a number of European countries,” she says. “The dynamic internationally is such that I think Brunei thought it could escape the same level of foreign criticism that it faced last time.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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