THE Sultan of Brunei, one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet, is reportedly overseeing the introduction of shariah laws that that could see LGBT people whipped or stoned to death for same-sex relations.
Hassanal Bolkiah, 73, Head of Religion in this small East Asian country, began the process of introducing shariah laws in 2014, when he announced the first of three stages of legal changes that included fines or jail for offences such as pregnancy outside marriage or failing to pray on Friday.
Bolkiah – pictured looking like a chimpanzee when he celebrated being on the throne for 50 years in 2017 – also banned public celebrations of Christmas in 2015, including wearing hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus. The ban affects only local Muslims. Christians are still allowed to celebrate Christmas.
Like his father, Bolkiah was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Brunei was a British protectorate until 1984.
Homosexuality is already illegal and punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment in the sultanate, but the changes would see Brunei become the first Asian country to make homosexuality punishable by death.
Brunei delayed implementing the final two stages of changes after an international backlash in 2014, including a boycott of the Beverley Hills Hotel, which owned by the sultan.
But it now plans to proceed with the changes that would allow whipping and stoning to death for Muslims found guilty of same-sex relations, adultery, sodomy and rape on April 3, according to Matthew Woolfe, Australian-based founder of the human rights group The Brunei Project. He said:
We are trying to get pressure placed on the government of Brunei but realise there is a very short time frame until the laws take affect.
He called on governments to step up diplomatic pressure on Brunei.
It took us by surprise that the government has now given a date and is rushing through implementation.
Woolfe said there had been no major public announcements on the implementation of the penal code changes aside from a statement posted on the Attorney General’s website late December, which only came to light this week.
Manila-based human rights group ASEAN SOGIE Caucus confirmed government documents showed the sharia laws were due to be implemented on April 3, as did a third human rights organisation.
The Brunei Prime Minister’s Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Socially conservative attitudes prevail across much of Asia with Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei banning sexual relationships between men while Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBT people in recent years.
Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s most prominent LGBT activists, said it would be a gross violation of international human rights if the changes went ahead.
It is horrible. Brunei is imitating the most conservative Arab states.
Homosexuality is punishable by death in several Muslim-majority countries, including death by stoning in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn