Tuesday 15 October 2019

Gay people to be whipped or stoned to death under Sultan's new laws


Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Photo: Reuters
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Photo: Reuters

Tom Barnes

The Sultan of Brunei, who rules by absolute monarchy, has introduced a series of criminal punishments based on Sharia law.

Brunei is set to permit the stoning and whipping to death of LGBT+ people under a series of reforms to its penal code that are attracting international condemnation.

New laws due to come into effect next Wednesday will see the tiny kingdom become the first nation in south-east Asia to impose the death penalty for those found engaging in same-sex intercourse.

Homosexuality was already illegal and carried a long jail sentence in Brunei. However, the country is in the process of introducing a Sharia law-style system for criminal punishment.

Human rights groups have denounced the move, including Amnesty International, which described the new punishments as "heinous" and "inhumane".

It said same-sex relations would become a capital offence that could be carried out by whipping or stoning.

Amnesty warned other new laws would permit amputation as a punishment for robbery or theft and would be carried out on children.

"Some of the potential 'offences' should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender," said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a Brunei researcher for the organisation.

"Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its penal code in compliance with its human rights obligations."

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who rules Brunei as an absolute monarch, first introduced measures under the Sharia Penal Code in 2014, imposing fines or jail terms for offences such as pregnancy out of wedlock or failing to pray on Fridays.

Laws targeting LGBT+ people were shelved following international protests, including a boycott of the sultan's exclusive Beverly Hills Hotel in California.

But it appears he will now implement the legislation, which he has in the past said should be regarded as "special guidance" from God.

Around two thirds of the oil-rich nation's 420,000 inhabitants are Muslim, home to significant Christian and Buddhist communities.

Irish Independent

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