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A controversial new penal code goes into effect in Brunei today that could see those convicted of sodomy stoned to death, and lesbians given 100 lashes or up to ten years in jail.
"Brunei Darussalam is a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country, and like all other independent countries, enforces its own rule of laws," the government said in a statement, according to Gay Times. "Brunei Darussalam has always been practicing a dual legal system, one that is based on the Syariah Law and the other on Common Law. In fully implementing the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 from 3rd April 2019, both systems will continue to run in parallel to maintain peace and order and preserve religion, life, family and individuals regardless of gender, nationality, race and faith."
In late March, news broke that Brunei had covertly been putting in place the new penal code that would include heinous acts like amputation as a sentencing for theft. It would also update its existing laws against homosexuality and sodomy, making those acts punishable by death. The move comes as a second wave in a three-part process the country began back in 2014.
Since the initial news surfaced, celebrities like George Clooney, Bobby Berk, Sir Elton John and Ellen Degeneres have all come out against the laws, calling on people to boycott the hotels in the Dorchester Group, which is owned by Brunei. Of those hotels, the Beverly Hills Hotel hosts glitzy Hollywood events. Degeneres was one of the most vocal in the initial boycott of the hotels back in 2014.
There have also been calls for a boycott on Brunei Airlines. The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby in Australia called for the airline to be banned from landing in Australia. The group went on to say that the laws would apply to "all those who board a Brunei-registered aircraft even when in Australia." Virgin Australia also said today that it ended a deal with the airline over the laws.
"It's absolutely crucial that the international community speak out now and demand that the Sultan of Brunei stop these barbaric changes that threaten the lives of Brunei citizens," Human Rights Campaign Global Director, Ty Cobb, wrote to Out in a statement on the initial news. "The Trump-Pence Administration must also immediately make clear that these outrageous human rights abuses will not be tolerated."
The Advocatehas reportedly filed multiple requests for comment on the matter from the Trump administration, but representatives have remained silent on the new laws, despite the President's repeated campaign promises that he would protect LGBTQ+ people. The United Nations has urged the country not to move forward, as the laws have received universal condemnation from human rights groups, including Amnesty International.
"Pending provisions in Brunei's Penal Code would allow stoning and amputation as punishments -- including for children, to name only their most heinous aspects," Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty said in a statement last week. "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."