September 16, 2020
Last week, the Southeast Asian nation of Brunei implemented harsh sharia laws, which means that homosexual sex is punishable with death by stoning.
Brunei and its Sultanate
For those of you who don’t know, Brunei is spread over 6,000 kilometre on the Island of Borneo with a population of fewer than 500,000 people. And it is also one of the world’s richest countries due to abundant oil and gas reserves.
The country is run as an absolute monarchy under Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. He has the final say on all the nation’s laws.
He boasts a personal wealth of over US$20 billion. Bolkiah also owns a Brunei Investment Agency, which holds a portfolio of US$40 billion.
Brunei was colonised by the British from 1888 until independence in 1984. Due to that, it is still a part of the Commonwealth and, most importantly the British continues to station their troops there.
Indonesia and Malaysia are Brunei’s nearest neighbours. Both the neighbouring countries are two of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nations and have also seen a backsliding in LGBTI rights.
Sharia laws and What It means
Brunei implemented its latest sharia (or Islamic) laws last week.
What the implementation means to the citizens:
Death by stoning for people convicted of sodomy. Public flogging for those convicted of abortions, adultery or rape. The amputation of hands and feet for convicted thieves.
The United Nations has also come out and condemned them as ‘cruel and inhuman’. The sultan has defended his ’sovereign right’. According to some arguments, the dwindling oil and gas reserves have forced the sultan to shore up support as a protector of Islam.
As we mentioned earlier, the international community, including Western governments led by the UN have expressed outrage.
Even celebrities from around the world have led a boycott of the Sultan’s business portfolio.
In the UK, a Labour MP said Brunei should be chucked out of the commonwealth. Although a boycott of hotels will however unlikely to impact the sultan’s wealth and his decision.
The UK, meanwhile, is unlikely to take any real action because of Brunei’s strategic importance.
Some worry Malaysia and Indonesia could also be bolstered to implement their owner harsher penalties against LGBTI citizens.
LGBTI life in Brunei
For the most part, LGBTI Bruneians are remaining very quiet and confused. While some people are describing the laws as ‘polarizing’ among the general population. They also accused leaders of ‘weaponizing religion’.