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On day anti-gay law comes to Brunei, Sultan promises ‘sweet’ experiences

On day anti-gay law comes to Brunei, Sultan promises ‘sweet’ experiences

The Sultan of Brunei - Hassanal Bolkiah

The Sultan of Brunei has marked the day in which his country introduces strict Sharia laws by claiming the ‘friendly’ country offers ‘sweet’ experiences.

The Muslim-majority kingdom of Brunei has faced widespread condemnation since Gay Star News broke the news last week that it was quietly rushing to implement the Sharia Penal Code. This includes stoning to death for those found guilty of sodomy. Lesbians face 100 whip lashes or ten years in jail.

The sharia laws will implemented today also include death for adulterers and amputation for those found guilty of theft. Those found guilty of abortion also face flogging

‘Brunei … always devotes its worship to Allah’

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, is the world’s longest serving leader. He has presided over the small kingdom, on the island of Borneo, for the past 51 years.

Today, to mark an Islamic festival, the Sultan gave a televised speech from a convention center near the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. Although not specifically mentioning the new penal codes, he said: ‘I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger.

‘I would like to emphasize that the country of Brunei is a … country that always devotes its worship to Allah.’

He went on to say say Brunei is a ‘fair and happy’ place.

‘Anyone who comes to visit this country will have a sweet experience, and enjoy the safe and harmonious environment.’

‘People are afraid’

Gay people from Brunei do not share his opinion. One gay man, Shahiran S Shahrani Md, currently seeking asylum in Canada, told the BBC: ‘The gay community in Brunei has never been open but when Grindr came that helped people meet in secret. But now, what I’ve heard is that hardly anyone is using Grindr anymore.

‘They’re afraid that they might talk to a police officer pretending to be gay. It hasn’t happened yet but because of the new laws, people are afraid.’

‘Absurd propaganda’

Brunei’s new penal code has been condemned internationally.

‘Brunei’s new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes,’ said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

‘Sultan Hassanal should immediately suspend amputations, stoning, and all other rights-abusing provisions and punishments.’

Responding to today’s speech from the Sultan, Robertson added: ‘The Sultan is either in total la-la land or pushing out self-serving propaganda to hide that the legal wrecking crew has been through. Either way the result is the same. LGBT people in Brunei have been marked for death and he’s the dictator who issued the order.

‘The Sultan and his senior government officials must be made into international pariahs for passing this law that will condemn people to death for who they dare to love.’

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell also dismissed the Sultan’s speech.

‘The Sultan’s claim that visitors to Brunei can enjoy a safe, harmonious environment is absurd propaganda. His introduction of harsh Sharia law will put LGBT people at risk of execution by stoning. There is nothing safe or harmonious about that.’

‘Inhuman punishments’

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, implored the Sultan not to implement the new penal code. She said the ‘draconian’ changes, ‘would enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach international human rights law.’

Celebrities including George Clooney and Elton John have called for boycotts of luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. A protest will take place this Saturday outside the Dorchester in London – one of the Sultan’s most famous hotels.

Royal Brunei Airlines

Yesterday, the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby in Australia called upon its government to revoke Royal Brunei Airlines’ right to land in Australia. The Australian department of foreign affairs has issued a warning to travellers about the new penal code. However, local LGBTI advocates say a warning does not go far enough.

‘The penal code applies to all those who board a Brunei registered aircraft even when in Australia,’ says the group.

‘(It) will allow for inhumane and cruel punishments for queer people, such as death by stoning for consensual acts between same-sex adults.’

Australia’s foreign office has yet to respond to the lobby group’s request.

See also

You can now be stoned to death for being gay in Brunei

Want to boycott Brunei? The anti-LGBTI ruler owns these businesses