Introduction of the New Law
The Brunei government has just introduced a new Sharia penal code that threatens the lives of marginalised groups in the nation. The penal code, passed on April 3rd, dictates that acts such as adultery and gay sexual acts will be punishable by death – more specifically, through the act of stoning that will be witnessed by a group of Muslims.
The new code is based off Shariah, Islamic law based on the Quran and other writings and will affect both Muslim and non-Muslim individuals. Other stipulations of the code include flogging as a punishment for abortion and amputation for theft. In addition, the death penalty is also stipulated for offences such as rape and the defamation of Prophet Muhammad. Under the new law, individuals accused of certain acts will be convicted if there were witnesses to the crime or if they confessed.
The move has sparked international condemnation, with nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France releasing statements against the imposition of the code. Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Brunei’s government to “stop the entry into force of this Draconian new penal code.”
Celebrities including George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres have voiced their opposition to the new law by rallying a boycott of nine hotels in the U.S and Europe with ties to Hassanal Bolkiah, who acts as both the Sultan of Brunei and its Prime Minister.
Back home, local Bruneians face the increasingly oppressive and restrictive regime, one that seemingly faces no opposition. Already a small and silent community, this move further alienates and pushes the LBGTQ community into hiding their identities — especially when faced with the threat of legal punishment.
What does this mean?
The passing of such an archaic law can only mark the beginning of a downward spiral for Brunei. The implementation of Sharia law in Brunei is one of the first for its region – however, given the trend in Brunei towards conservative policies, it is almost certain that such extreme laws wouldn’t be the last of their kind.