Amendments entered into force in Brunei this Wednesday to the laws of the country based on the principles of Sharia. Among other things, this means tougher punishment for homosexuality and adultery - from now on they can be punished with the death penalty in the form of stoning. Human rights activists called the new amendments medieval barbarism. Actor and director George Clooney has called for a boycott of the international hotel chain owned by Brunei (celebrities ranging from Elton John to Ellen DeGeneres have joined the boycott), and Australian tour operators and airlines are ending their cooperation with the state carrier of the Sultanate Royal Brunei Airlines.
Homosexual relations in Brunei were prohibited by law before the amendments: same-sex sex could be punishable by up to ten years in prison. However, since 2014, when the Sultanate announced that it would adopt Sharia law in addition to secular legislation, the situation with LGBT rights has deteriorated markedly. Lesbian sex is now punishable by either a prison term of up to ten years, or public corporal punishment - forty blows with a bamboo stick. Sex between men can be punishable by death.
The tightening of the screws also affected freedom of religion: if the 1959 constitution guaranteed protection for representatives of any confessions, then recent amendments actually made Brunei a mono-religious state (teaching Muslims under the age of eighteen "any religions except Islam" is punishable by a prison term, insulting the Prophet Muhammad - the death penalty) … In addition, Brunei legalized the cutting off of hands as a punishment for theft.
Some commentators consider the tightening of Brunei's laws to be nothing more than a populist and largely formal step. In their opinion, the Islamic radicalization of laws in a country where about two-thirds of the population are Shafi'i Sunnis is due to the recent economic downturn. Prosperity in the Abode of Peace - as Brunei is officially called, one of the top five countries with the highest GDP per capita (estimates of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for 2017) - is mainly supported by oil production, but its reserves may already be depleted in six years.
Religion can become an additional source of loyalty if the economic situation in Brunei deteriorates. Amnesty International spokesman Francisco Bencosme believes that criticism from the West only strengthens the authority of the monarch in Brunei itself and in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, who hold similar views on religion: "The louder the international outrage, the more the Sultan looks like a defender of conservative Islam" (this Wednesday Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah just said that he wants to "see the country loyalty to Sharia").
Lesbian sex is now punishable by either a prison term of up to ten years or public corporal punishment - forty blows with a bamboo stick
It is also noted that the death penalty in Brunei has not been applied since 1957 - that is, all the time that Hassanal Bolkiah is on the throne - and in order to prove homosexual relations (or adultery) in the Sharia court, at least four testimonies are required Muslims. However, this reasoning is unlikely to help the representatives of the local LGBT community feel safe. “The gay community in Brunei was never open, but when Grindr (a queer dating app. - Approx. ed.), it helped people meet in secret. Now, as far as I know, almost no one uses Grindr,”Shahiran Shahrani, 40, a political refugee from Brunei, told the BBC. - People are afraid that police officers will begin to communicate with them under the guise of gays.This has not happened yet, but people are afraid that because of the new law, this will begin to happen. " Brunei LGBT representatives are no less afraid of domestic homophobia, as well as denunciations from neighbors.
Boycotts of Brunei-owned hotels, the list of which is distributed on social networks, led to the fact that they all deleted their pages on social networks (the Greek Hotel Bel-Air was also mistakenly hit by the distribution, which had to confirm that he had nothing to do with his Los Angeles namesake does not), and the management company Dorchester Collection said the protests would hit thousands of hotel workers, people of very different nationalities and religions, in the first place.
This is partly true - in the sense that neither the Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest people in the world, whose fortune is estimated at twenty billion dollars, nor his relatives, are likely to suffer tangible economic damage. Noting this, LGBT activists are demanding stronger and more ambitious sanctions from their respective governments. “You can always declare your support for LGBT rights free of charge; You can also wrap yourself in a rainbow flag for free, smile at gay couples holding hands in public, or wave at a passing gay pride parade. But what happens when Britain's friendly dictatorships linked to the British elite say they are going to stone gays and torture lesbians to death? Our government has failed that test,”writes columnist Owen Jones, who points out that Britain is in no hurry to abandon an arms deal with its former protectorate. - Our government will probably say the right words about supporting LGBT people, but words alone are worthless, they need to be backed up with deeds. If it doesn't, the message is clear: Britain's economic interests are more important to Britain than gay rights to life.”
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