Brunei’s Anti-Gay Penal Code to Go Into Effect
Brunei's new Islamic penal code, which punishes same-sex acts with death by stoning, is set to go into effect May 1, Gay Star News reports.
It was reported last week that controversial Islamic Sharia law, which will sentence individuals to death by stoning for a number of offenses, including gay sex, adultery, rape and declaring to be non-Muslim, was postponed on April 22 "due to unavoidable circumstances," according to Assistant Director of Brunei's Islamic Legal Unit, Jauyah Zaini.
The southeast Asia country's sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, made a statement that the law will go into effect starting Thursday, however.
"With faith and gratitude to Allah the almighty, I declare that tomorrow, Thursday May 1, 2014, will see the enforcement of sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases," Bolkiah said, according to the AFP.
"This Act without doubt, is now part of the great history of our nation," he added, as reported by the Brunei Times.
The law will be enforced in three phases over the next few years years, the AFP reports.
During the first phase, a number of offenses, including indecent behavior, failure to attend Friday prayers and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, will be covered by the law. Those who break the code will face fines and jail terms. The second phase, which covers crimes like theft and robbery, will start later this year and carry stronger penalties, like amputation and flogging.
Finally, late next year, phase three will be introduced where those who are found guilty of sodomy and adultery will be stoned to death.
The Brunei Times notes that the law will apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
The law has drawn ire from human rights groups and activists. The United Nations' human rights office said it was "deeply concerned."
"It's a return to medieval punishment," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told AFP. "It's a huge step back for human rights in Brunei and totally out of step with the 21st century."
The controversial measure has even gotten the attention of Hollywood as a number of high profile celebrities, like Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Fry, have boycotted the Dorchester Hotel Group, which is owned by Bolkiah, GSN reports.
"We continue to abide by the laws of the countries we operate in and do not tolerate any form of discrimination of any kind. The laws that exist in other countries outside of where Dorchester Collection operates do not affect the policies that govern how we run our hotels," a Dorchester spokesperson said in a statement.
LGBT advocacy group Gill's Action Political Outgiving 5.0 conference was scheduled at the hotel, but officials have moved the event.