WORLD NEWS

Gay Sex Is Now Punishable By Stoning To Death In Brunei

Adultery carries the same punishment under the new Sharia penal code that was fully implemented in the oil-rich kingdom on Wednesday.

Defying the United Nations, rights groups and horrified critics the world over, Brunei says it’s pushing ahead with a slew of new Islamic laws that will make gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death, and amputation a penalty for theft.

The laws are part of a new Sharia penal code that was fully implemented on Wednesday. Brunei, a tiny, oil-rich kingdom located on the island of Borneo, became the first East Asian country to adopt Sharia as law in 2014. The legislation has since been introduced in phases.

The final phase, enacted this week, makes sodomy between two men or unmarried heterosexual couples punishable by stoning to death or whipping with 100 strokes, Australia’s ABC News reported. Adultery carries the same punishment.

According to Agence France-Presse, the penalty of stoning to death can only be applied if an accused person confesses to the offense or if there are at least four witnesses. If the accused is convicted using other evidence, the punishment is 30 lashes and up to seven years of jail time.

The penalty for sex between two women is whipping and up to 10 years behind bars, ABC said. 

Under the new penal code, thieves could have their limbs amputated. Dressing as someone of a different gender could result in jail time, according to CNN

Though it remains unclear whether Brunei will actually mete out some of these extreme punishments, its new laws have been lambasted as “cruel and inhuman” by the United Nations and “barbaric to the core” by Human Rights Watch. The U.S. State Department decried the harsh penalties as counter to Brunei’s “international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Political leaders in the U.K. and the European Union have called for the kingdom to toss out its new penal code. 

“Sexual orientation and gender identity are in essence individual choices, which should, under no circumstances, be subject to punishment, legal codification or discriminatory practices,” Antonio Panzeri, chairman of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights, told Reuters.

Celebrities have also protested the new laws. Actor George Clooney, singer Elton John and TV host Ellen DeGeneres have urged people to boycott nine luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, including The Dorchester in London, The Beverly Hills Hotel in California and Le Meurice in Paris.

“Let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery,” Clooney wrote in a searing op-ed published last week. 

The government of Brunei, a Muslim-majority nation, has not backed down in the face of the global outcry. The government said in a statement on Saturday that it, “like all other independent countries, enforces its own rule of law.” 

Observers have suggested that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s embrace of Sharia is an attempt by the Bruneian leader to win the support of conservative supporters in the face of a struggling economy, according to AFP. Hard-hit by falling oil prices, Brunei has been ravaged by recession for several years.

“Brunei is becoming Southeast Asia’s Saudi Arabia,” Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert from John Cabot University in Rome, told the outlet.

“The regime has increasingly been relying on religious legitimacy, appealing to a conservative Islamic ideology. The weakening economy in Brunei, as well as concerns about possible erosion of support, underscore this increasing reliance on religion,” Welsh added.

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