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News > World

Brunei to Stone Those Convicted of Homosexual Sex to Death

  • Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah during a visit to the Pentagon on Dec. 16, 2002.

    Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah during a visit to the Pentagon on Dec. 16, 2002. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 28 March 2019

Due to public outcry, Brunei delayed implementating the penal code's final stages but has now revealed plans to begin next month.

On April 3, a new law will come into effect in the small Asian kingdom of Brunei, which will make homosexual sex and adultery punishable by death. Current law states that those convicted of same-sex activities can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.  

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The new law equates homosexual acts and adultery to rape, and anyone convicted of any of these acts will be stoned to death. According to the new penal code, as the stoning is carried out, it will be "witnessed by a group of Muslims."

While 67% of the people in Brunei are Muslim, the remaining non-Muslim population, which includes Christians and Buddhists, will also be subjected to several of the provisions.

In 2014, Sultan and Prime Minister of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah announced three stages of strict new laws as the nation became the first in the region to adopt sharia law. Due to international outcry, Brunei delayed the implementation of the final two stages of the new penal code but has now announced plans to commence next month, Matthew Woolfe, the founder of the human rights group The Brunei Project, says.

The severe provisions of the final phases, which include amputation as a punishment for theft, were announced on the attorney general's website in December of last year. Children are also subjected to these harsh new provisions. 

Brunei, located on the island of Borneo, is an oil-rich kingdom with a population of about 450,000 people. The country is surrounded by other Islamic nations, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, but proves to be far more conservative than its neighbors. The small kingdom even implemented a prohibition of alcohol.

Regarding the policy change, Sultan Bolkiah says he "does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them." The new set of laws has continued to receive international backlash from human rights organizations. 

Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, raised concern about how the implementation will impact women, noting that "a number of UN studies have revealed that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotyping against them." 

Amnesty International (AI) fears that the implementation of the new provisions will "take the country back to the dark ages."

Brunei researcher at AI, Rachel Chhoa-Howard, calls on the international community to "urgently condemn Brunei's move to put these cruel penalties into practice," saying "it blatantly restricts the rights to freedom of expression, religion and belief, and codifies discrimination against women and girls."

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