Brunei’s stoning for ‘gay-sex’ law flies under the radar

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04/24/2020

In April 2019, the words ‘Sultan’, ‘Brunei’, ‘stoning’ and ‘gay-sex’ were trending globally. Condemnation of Brunei’s death by stoning law for proven acts of liwat — consensual intimacy between men — came from governments, the European Parliament, UN and other international human rights bodies, NGOs and a host of celebrities including George Clooney and Richard Branson. Sanctions were threatened and boycotts called for.Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah inspects an honour guard during the 34th National Day celebrations in Bandar Seri Begawan, 24 February 2018 (Reuters/Ahim Rani).
The Sultan who had long kept his nation’s draconian laws under the radar of international scrutiny was now firmly in global sights. Brunei’s common law had for a century criminalised consenting homosexual acts and in 2017 increased the maximum penalty from 10 to 30 years, with whippings. This passed without comment, but the antiquated concept of stoning was a bridge too far for a vigilant and vocal worldwide LGBT movement. Despite being unwilling to back down on the righteousness of any Syariah law ‘ordained by Allah’, the Sultan placated international critics by announcing a moratorium on the death penalty by stoning. It was a small concession as Brunei already had a general moratorium on the death penalty. But neither the SPC nor the step-by-step stoning procedure in the accompanying criminal procedure order were repealed or amended.

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