Brunei, a small country located in the south pacific, has found itself in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Previously known for the most famous Sultan in the world, beautiful beaches and a place for holiday for thousands of tourists every year, it has now one more claim to fame, that puts it in the same category as Saudi Arabia. It has introduced a new law that allows for anyone to have been found guilty of having sex with another person of the same gender to be stoned to death. This new law is being implemented into their legal system as part of Sharia Law, a particularly harsh legal system that is created based on the teachings of the Qu’ran, the Islamic holy doctrine.
Sharia Law has been slowly introduced into the country since 2014. The pace at which new laws have been implemented has reduced as more and more publicity has been brought to it around the world. Since news broke of the most recent new introductions, many have called for boycotts of any hotels owned by the Sultan, which includes high profile accommodation in Los Angeles and London. According to this list of best criminal lawyers, celebrities have been trying to spread the word as part of the international backlash.
This isn’t the first instance of a boycott though. Back in 2014, when Sharia Law was first introduced, protesters gathered outside a hotel in LA railing against the hypocrisy of the hotel that offered special rates for those who were LGBT couples, while continuing to be funded by a regime that had outlawed homosexuality since the 80’s after it gained independence from the UK.
The most recent change which has introduced stoning or whipping for the crime of homosexuality, while rape and adultery will also be punishable by death rather than solely imprisonment. As the country, has moved towards this more religious legal system, Christmas has been celebrated less, while failing to pray on Friday’s can leave citizens with a fine or imprisonment. This move towards a more religious society isn’t exactly a problem in itself but when possible human rights abuses become apparent, it can become a worry for those watching on from afar.
Having said all this, the chance of being punished for homosexuality in Brunei are quite slim. To be charged, a confession must be made or there need to be at least 4 credible witnesses, which will be difficult to get. According to Papa Hughes, members of the LGBT have said recently that not much has changed for them due to the introduction of Sharia Law. The last death penalty was in the 50’s so they don’t see being caught by the law as a credible threat, however they fear the new laws will embolden those who have more traditional, archaic beliefs to take matters into their own hands and that there will be an increase in hate crimes.
Sharia Law will only be in place for the two thirds of the population that are Muslim, while those who do fall under the remit of the law say there are ways around it, especially if you know members of the Royal Family. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs are all banned and possession of them will be met with imprisonment, however young people in search of alcohol know where to find it, while they can also travel the short distance to seaside venues where it is more easily available.
Whether this new law is implemented is anyone’s guess, but if the state begins to lose money through tourism, it’s hotels in the western world or through its relationship with larger countries of the world it would be good to bet on a swift backtrack or non-enforcement on this issue.