Jakarta: Australia has joined a growing international outcry over the introduction of sharia in Brunei, which includes the death penalty for extra-marital and gay sex in the majority-Muslim country.
The harsh new penal code began to be implemented by the country’s 72-year-old ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, in October 2013 and came into full effect on Wednesday.
It has drawn strong criticism from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States, Germany, France and Britain and calls for boycotts of luxury hotels such as the Beverly Hills hotel, which is owned by Brunei.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Australia had “raised our concerns with the Brunei government on the introduction of the full Syariah Penal Code”.
“We absolutely oppose the death penalty and are committed to the rights of LGBTI people. We will continue to advocate for human rights in the region and beyond,” she said on Twitter.
The foreign affairs department has also updated its travel warning for Brunei to highlight the fact that executions and other physical punishments are applicable under the new laws.
The new penal code imposes death by stoning for anal sex, heterosexual extra-marital sex and abortion. Lesbian sex can be punished by up to 100 lashes.
For the death penalty to be imposed, either four people have to witness the now-illegal act or a person has to confess. Children who have reached puberty can, under the laws, be tried as adults and receive the same punishments.
People who are convicted of theft face having their limbs amputated. There are also penalties for sexual relations between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, and for selling food, drink or cigarettes during Ramadan.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims can also get into legal trouble for printing, importing or sharing publications deemed to be against the Islamic faith.
The new laws in Brunei have come into effect at a time when the rights of LGBTI people in other majority-Muslim nations in south-east Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia, are increasingly under threat and as Islam plays a more assertive role in those nations’ politics.
Human Rights Watch’s deputy director in Asia, Phil Robertson, said the laws were a “little house of horrors”.
“Brunei deserves to be an international human rights pariah for these laws,” he said.
“What happens, for example, if someone is tortured and then ‘confesses’ to having gay sex?”
Mr Robertson welcomed Senator Payne’s comments as evidence she was “right on top of it”.
“That’s welcome. I think Australia’s response has to be comprehensive and multi-faceted. It has to be based on the whole idea of human rights and not criminalising love, but then it also has to be underpinned by Australia’s abhorrence of the death penalty,” he said.
“Australia has to re-double its efforts through out the south-east Asia region.”
Brunei is a tiny nation of just over 400,000 people with tremendous oil wealth. It has been ruled by the current Sultan, who is one of the richest people on the planet, since 1967.
Brunei’s law mandating STONING TO DEATH of gays & adulterers to come into force
A harsher version of penal code, which includes sharia-based punishments for things like adultery and same-sex relations, is to come into force next week in Brunei. The ‘human rights defenders’ in Washington, however, are silent.
Brunei, a tiny Muslim-majority absolute monarchy located in Southeastern Asia is about to put into force the last amendment to its criminal code as part of a reform initiated back in 2014. The renewed code, which is aimed at reflecting Islam’s tenets of morality and punishment for those who break them, will include caning and even stoning to death of Muslims, who are found guilty of adultery, sodomy and rape.
The government wanted to roll in the new laws in stages, but put the process on pause after international public outcry over the milder phase one, which included fines and jail terms for offenders, but not corporal punishment. Last week a rights group reported that Brunei quietly announced earlier this year the date, when the harsher version of the code would come into force: April 3.
“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 effect,” Matthew Woolfe an Australia-based founder of the group, the Brunei Project, told Reuters. “It took us by surprise that the government has now given a date and is rushing through implementation.”
Homosexuality was outlawed in Brunei even before the 2014 reform and in fact since colonial times, with jail sentences of up to 10 years possible. If its government goes ahead with the plan, the nation will become the first in Asia to allow punishing gay people by death. At the moment only a handful of nations like Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have such provisions in their law.
The news has horrified some international rights groups. Amnesty International, in particular, decried the introduction of “cruel and inhuman penalties” and called on the world to “urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”
However, the US has so far stayed conspicuously silent on the issue. Washington, which actively develops economic ties with the oil-rich nation while regularly holding annual naval drills with a particular focus on maritime security in the South China Sea, has not yet issued a single statement on the latest developments in Brunei.
And neither did London, which also enjoys “close ties” with its former protectorate. Although, one could hardly expect any damning statements from the US aimed at the Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. The man, who recently described the amendment of the penal code as “a great achievement,” has traditionally enjoyed warm relations with the White House, which were sometimes marked by some extraordinary gifts like jewelry worth $71,468 presented to the former first lady, Michelle Obama, by the Queen of Brunei back in 2013.
However, such a situation would probably surprise no one. The fact that another of Washington’s major allies – Saudi Arabia – also punishes same-sex relations by death – alongside adultery, apostasy and blasphemy – never stopped the US from striking billions-worth of deals with Riyadh.
The Stars Circle the Wagons Against Brunei for Its New LGBTQ Death Penalty Laws
Grammy Award-winning English singer Elton John has joined Oscar-winning American actor George Clooney in urging for a boycott of nine luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei due to the country’s new death penalty laws for Muslims found guilty of adultery, rape or sex with someone of the same gender.
Beginning April 3, Brunei, a former British enclave sandwiched between two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, will make gay sex and adultery punishable by death by stoning, according to multiple reports. The new laws, however, will only apply to the country’s Muslims, which make up around two-thirds of the country’s population.
“I commend my friend, George Clooney, for taking a stand against the anti-gay discrimination and bigotry taking place in the nation of Brunei — a place where gay people are brutalized, or worse — by boycotting the sultan’s hotels,” the 72-year-old best-selling singer tweeted Saturday, listing the nine hotels to boycott, including London’s exclusive Dorchester hotel and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
“Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels, we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery,” George Clooney wrote in an opinion piece for Deadline.
The draconian penal code, first introduced in 2013, has seen its implementation delayed due to widespread, international condemnation. Homosexuality was already illegal in the small sultanate and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but the new changes, which will take effect on April 3, permit execution by whipping or stoning for Muslims found guilty of sodomy, as well as rape or adultery, Sputnik previously reported.
Within the country, there has been no vocal opposition to the penal code, Sputnik reported previously. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has ruled the country since 1967 and first introduced his own version of sharia Islamic law interpreted from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the traditions) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, to the southeast Asian nation.
Below I’ve listed the nine hotels. It’s up to each of us what we want to do.
The Dorchester, London
45 Park Lane, London
Coworth Park, UK
The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
Le Meurice, Paris
Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
Hotel Eden, Rome
Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan