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Influential gay model visits Brunei and says he has no safety concerns

Influential gay model visits Brunei and says he has no safety concerns

Model Sinon Loresca is famed for his love of high heels

An influential Filipino model and social media influencer has prompted a storm of comments online with his latest trip: to Brunei.

Gay model Sinon Loresca has built up a huge online following with his lighthearted social media postings. These often include him wearing skimpy outfits to show off his gym-toned physique.

In other posts he challenges traditional notions of masculinity, strutting in high heels or dresses.

Loresca announces his visit to Brunei on Facebook

Yesterday he posted a typical photo of himself to Facebook. In the image, taken outside an airport, he wears heels, a dress and tiara. The accompanying caption said: ‘On my way to Brunei.’

On Instagram, Loresca has almost half a million followers, while on Facebook, 1.6million have liked his page and follow his adventures. Many were quick to question his apparent decision to visit Brunei and voiced concerns for his safety.

Brunei’s sharia law against gay sex

The small country of Brunei, on the island of Borneo, announced in late March that it was implementing a new sharia-based penal code. This included death by stoning for men found guilty of homosexuality. Lesbians faced imprisonment and lashes.

International condemnation of the new law was swift and prompted a boycott of businesses owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Last week, in an apparent u-turn, the Sultan announced the death penalty component of the law would not be implemented. However, gay men may face up to 30 years in prison and lesbians still face potential corporal punishment.

Earlier this week, LGBTI advocates said governments must not ease up on applying pressure to Brunei.

‘On the surface it seems like good news,’ Matthew Woolfe, founder of human rights group The Brunei Project, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

‘(But) the fact that these laws are not being repealed is still of concern to us. There is nothing stopping the Brunei government from lifting the moratorium at anytime.’

Loresca is booked for events around the world
Loresca often flies around the world for bookings and events (Photo: Facebook)

Danger ‘exaggerated’ says model

Responding to concern from some fans, Loresca said he felt safe. He suggests reports of Brunei being unwelcoming to gay people are exaggerated.

‘Muslim people are nice and kind. Sometimes the news is exaggerated. Remember as long as we don’t hurt a person, nothing will happen,’ he posted in a Facebook comment.

Approached by Gay Star News, Loresca said he was attending Brunei for a private event. He did not reveal any more details.

‘I have nothing concern in my safety, Brunei is the safest country I been,’ he wrote via email. ‘People are very polite and friendly.

‘I respect the religion … I been to so many Muslim country and I must say it’s safest place to visit on earth even I’m a part of [the] LGBT.

‘Always remember this – as long as you don’t hurt anyone you are always in good hands. Be good. Be humble. And always nice to people. That’s my secret that I am not afraid of anything even stoned death not real … Sometimes the news are to [sic] exaggerated.’

Photo: Sinon Loresca | Facebook
Photo: Sinon Loresca | Facebook

‘I tip my hat off to whoever orchestrated this’

How anti-gay countries treat tourists may, of course, differ to how they might citizens. In some countries, sharia law applies to Muslim nationals only, whereas visitors may be instead expelled if suspected of similar crimes.

Among those to comment on Loresca’s apparent trip is a Brunei gay man currently seeking asylum in Canada. Shahiran Shahrani, who runs the website ‘RefugeeInCanada’, said Loresca’s trip surprised him.

However, he indicated it gave him hope for his home country. He also suggested someone with power within the country sanctioned the trip.

‘I tip my hat off to whoever orchestrated this,’ he wrote on Facebook. ‘Bruneians don’t see the subtle power play at work here. Someone near the top of the Bruneian food chain has obviously invited the man and guaranteed his safety.

‘In a direct slap in the face to the Mufti office and Ministry of Religious Affairs. The islamists contingent.

‘I bet those guys are bristling but with the sultan openly breaking with the mufti over Syariah, other members of the royal family are also obviously getting their shots in as well.

‘I stand corrected. There’s hope for this country yet.’

Around 12 years ago, Loresca’s parents threw out the then 18-year-old after he came out as gay. After spending some time homeless, he turned to social media to find recognition for his modelling. He styled himself ‘The King of the Catwalk’. His fame took off after his videos began going viral in 2016.

See also

Gay refugee says Brunei’s U-turn ‘changes nothing’

Brunei’s U-turn ‘changes very little’ warns rights group