Human Rights Campaign (HRC) slammed the plan of the Sultanate of Brunei to impose the death penalty to people found guilty of the consensual same-sex relationships calling it “outrageous” and echoed calls from the international community to stand up against the repressive policy that is set to be implemented on the first week of April.
In a blog post from the organization who have been monitoring the political climate for LGBTQ people in Brunei, HRC’s Global Director Ty Cobb said that the proposed Penal Code changes were a state-sponsored murder.
“We are facing a dangerous crisis as Brunei is close to implementing laws that impose state-sponsored torture and murder of LGBTQ people. 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,” Cobb said as published by HRC in a blog post.
The said law, which imposes ‘death by stoning’ to those who will be found guilty of same-sex relations among other crimes that violate the Sharia law, will take effect next week, April 3. Come to its effectivity, Brunei becomes the first Asian country to criminalize homosexuality and impose the death penalty on it.
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Criminalization of homosexuality is part of the national implementation of the Sharia law that the Sultanate first announced in 2014. At the time, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said: “The decision to implement the (penal code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Qur’an.”
Five years following the implementation of the first phase of Bolkiah’s legal restructuring, he and the Sultanate of Brunei plans to proceed with their plans to proceed with second and third phases. The new Sharia-based legislation will criminalize acts like same-sex relations, adultery, sodomy, rape, and blasphemy and those who will be found guilty will be whipped and stoned to death. Currently, being gay is punishable by ten years in prison in Brunei.
The Human Rights Campaign has urged the international community to apply necessary pressure for the Sultanate to rescind its plan. They said that international pressure was a huge factor that dissuaded the government from enacting the second and third phases of the Penal Code reforms when it was scheduled to be introduced in 2015.
Brunei’s Sultan, who is also the country’s prime minister, previously announced that the changes in their legal system in accordance to the Sharia law would be gradually implemented in three phases. The first phase of the law criminalized and punished people for having children out of wedlock, failing to attend Friday prayer, and being seen to be promoting any form of belief other than Islam. Those who violated these rules, that were implemented in May 2014, were subjected to an Islamic court and could face imprisonment or fines.
While Sultan Bolkiah successfully implemented the first phase of the said legal changes, the second phase was postponed following the global backlash it received from the international community. The second phase was supposed to criminalize Muslims found guilty of alcohol consumption and theft in 2015. If the second phase were successfully implemented, a final stage would have been implemented in 2016.
The organization also raised concerns on the lives of LGBTQ people living in Brunei as their lives were “constricted due to constraints imposed by anti-LGBTQ religious and social views.”
Brunei has a total population of 400,000 with which 67% are Muslims who are therefore subjected to the Sharia Law. However, since the first phase of Sharia law applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims, it looks like no one will be exempt from the violent ruling.
Other human rights advocates have condemned the new law and said that it violates major international treaties on human rights that the country was a signatory of. Brunei has signed the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but the Sultanate never ratified it.
Matthew Woolfe, the founder of the human rights group The Brunei Project, said that the Sultanate did not make any public announcement about the new legislation that it plans to implement. Woolfe noted that it had only been known this week. A move that gives human rights advocates and external forces little time to challenge the said law.
The Human Rights Campaign and The Brunei project has been working with each other to help protect LGBTQ people in Brunei since 2014.