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Sultan of Brunei returns Oxford degree after gay sex death penalty backlash

Sultan of Brunei returns Oxford degree after gay sex death penalty backlash

The Sultan of Brunei - Hassanal Bolkiah

Brunei’s leader, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has returned an honorary degree awarded by Britain’s Oxford University.

The weight of a 120,000-strong petition last month calling for the institution to rescind the nominal law degree awarded in 1993 proves pressuring.

Oxford University confirmed on Thursday (24 May) that the world’s second-longest reigning monarch had returned the degree back on 6 May.

What happened?

Oxford awarded the Sultan an Honorary Degree of Civil Law in 1993.

But since the global outcry in the Sultan’s forcing of Bruneians to abide by his governmental bloc’s Shariah law, they announced they were reviewing it.

However, in a statement attained by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, the college said it contacted the sultan.

‘In the light of concerns about the new Penal Code in Brunei, the University opened a review of the decision to award an honorary degree to His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei,’ a spokesperson for Oxford University told Gay Star News.

‘As part of the review process, the University wrote to notify the Sultan on 26 April 2019, asking for his views by 7 June 2019.

‘Through a letter dated 6 May 2019, the Sultan replied with his decision to return the degree.’

Adding their voice

Oxford are the latest in a long line of companies and people to boycott Brunei in the wake of their laws. Continuing criticism after the sultan announced that execution by stoning for people convicted of gay sex would not be carried out.

However, critics pointed out that harsh punishments remain on the books, including lashing for lesbian sex, whipping, and amputation.

Continued and consistent opposition must be done until the laws are completely redacted.

Background of Brunei

Rulers of Brunei have long enforced strictly traditional provisions 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, 72, the country banned alcohol and forbade the proliferation of non-Islamic faiths.

All a stark contrast to neighbouring Muslim-majority nations, such as Indonesia or Malaysia.

Things have been this way since 1962, when a left-leaning political party, Parti Rakyat Brunei, won local elections.

But the Sultan refused to recognize this, and the party staged a failed coup. As a result, Brunei has been under emergency rule ever since, granting the Sultan full executive decision-making power.

Sharia Penal Code: In three stages

Back in 2014, Bolkiah announced the Brunei governmental bloc would implement the Sharia Penal Code 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.

See also

Oxford University to review Brunei Sultan’s degree over LGBTI death penalty

UK universities refuse to rescind Sultan of Brunei’s three honorary degrees

Aberdeen University rescinds the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree