Brunei officials traveled to the only province of Indonesia that enacts Islamic criminal laws before implementing its own brutal sharia laws.
Brunei has faced widespread condemnation this week after it enacted a new sharia penal code.
It includes death by stoning for people convicted of sodomy, whipping for those condemned for adultery or rape, and the amputation of hands and feet for convicted thieves.
Homosexuality was already illegal in the small kingdom of 500,000 people on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
Local officials in Aceh, a province in Indonesia which has implemented sharia laws since 2001, told local media Brunei’s new penal code came out of an official Brunei visit to the province to learn how to implement the laws.
‘Brunei [officials] often came to visit the [Aceh Ulema Council] for discussions … We had discussions and exchanged ideas with them,’ Teungku Faisal Ali told reporters on Thursday (4 April), according to Detik.
‘We didn’t discuss LGBT specifically, rather the general topic of how Islamic sharia can be implemented to protect the people and to obey the instructions of God.’
Detik reported a 2014 press release from the Aceh government which detailed such a visit.
Although Indonesia does not criminalize gay sex on a national level, Aceh punishes same-sex relations with 100 lashes.
According to Indonesia’s Supreme Court, Aceh’s sharia courts tried 373 people in 2018.
Brunei’s neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia have both witnessed worrying crackdown on their LGBTI population in recent years.
Rulers of Brunei have long enforced strictly traditional interpretations of Islamic teachings. The country, in Southeast Asia, operates under an absolute monarchy.
In other words, the head of state, the Sultan of Brunei, is also head of government. Royalty and lawmaking are one the same.
For example, under the current 51-year-long monarch Hassanal Bolkiah, the country banned alcohol and forbade the proliferation of non-Islamic faiths.
There has been widespread global condemnation of Brunei and its sultan.
Virgin Australia, meanwhile, ended a deal with Royal Brunei Airlines.
The UK government has also faced calls to suspend Brunei from the Commonwealth.
Opposition party Labour said it was time to draw ‘a line in the sand’ over abuses of LGBTI rights in Commonwealth countries, the Independent reported.
The US State Department criticized the move, too, but stopped short of fully condemning the law.
Sharia Penal Code: In three stages
Back in 2014, the sultan announced the Sharia Penal Code would be implemented in three stages.
The first stage of legal reforms was no struggle to lawmakers, but its second and third stages experienced holdups.
However, the Bruneian Attorney General’s Chambers website officially posted plans to fast-track implementation of the SPC on 29 December 2018.