Brunei To Punish Gay Sex And Adultery With Death By Stoning


The small, southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei has announced new draconian measures, punishing theft with the amputation of a hand and a foot, and homosexual sex and adultery with death. Beginning on April 3, individuals found guilty of the latter offences will be stoned to death. To be convicted, the crimes must be “witnessed by a group of Muslims”.

The latest provisions, which are but part of a gradual roll out of Sharia law, have been met with horror and condemnation by human rights groups. Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International, stated, “Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations. The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.” Citing the punishments as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading”, she added that, “Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”

These brutal new laws are but part of the country’s movement towards a more conservative future. The small nation, nestled on the island of Borneo and ruled by sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has already banned homosexuality as a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison, alcohol consumption, as well as “conspicuous Christian celebrations”.

The 2014 implementation of Sharia law propelled the country towards an increasingly despotic and austere future. However, Bolkiah’s calls for a more conservative version of Islam contradict the royal family’s lavish lifestyle. One of the world’s richest leaders, Bolkiah has amassed a personal wealth of about $20 billion since he first took the throne in 1967. According to The New York Times, the oil-rich sultan lives in a 1,788-room palace, while his brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah’s lifestyle is marked by flamboyance and decadence. 

According to The Guardian, Jefri’s un-Islamic conduct came to light in a series of court cases, which concerned his embezzlement of $15 million from the state during his tenure as finance minister in the 1990s. His lifestyle “involved a harem of foreign mistresses and the purchase of cars, erotic sculptures, and a luxury yacht he called Tits.” The royal family’s luxurious lifestyle exists in stark contradiction with Bolkiah’s harsh decrees, which, according to Ms. Chhoa-Howard, “blatantly restricts the rights to freedom of expression, religion and belief, and codifies discrimination against women and girls.”

Though his rule is marked by hypocrisy, Bolkiah has continued to push for Sharia law. According to The New York Times, some laws, such as those concerning adultery and gay sex, will apply to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, while some offences, “such as apostasy, apply specifically to Muslims, who make up about two-thirds of Brunei’s population.”

Brunei’s 2014 introduction of Sharia had been met with biting international backlash: Los Angeles protesters encircled the Beverly Hills hotel and Hotel Bel Air, both of which were owned by the oil-rich sultanate. The protests, which called for divestment, and according to The Guardian, accused the hotels of hypocrisy for “offering packages to LGBT couples, while being bankrolled by a country that has condemned homosexuals to death”, forestalled Brunei’s imposition of the harshest provisions of its Sharia law.

As Brunei moves forward with these provisions, the international community must continue to condemn Bolkiah’s actions. If the 2014 protests managed to foil Bolkiah’s decrees, continued and intensified outcry may once again pressure the sultan to comply with human rights obligations and halt the implementation of these brutish penalties.