Brunei Foreign Minister Defends Anti-Gay Law, Saying Executions Are 'Unlikely'

The aim of the new law is to "educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture," rather than to punish, says foreign minister Dato Erywan.

Brunei foreign minister with Jeremy Hunt

Dato Erywan, foreign minister of Brunei, has defended his country’s new sharia penal code – which threatens gay men with death by stoning, and lesbians with forty lashes of a whip – in a letter to the United Nations.

In the letter, Erywan claims that the law threatening gay men with execution “focuses more on prevention than punishment” and aims to “safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage.” He explains that the death penalty will rarely be applied and that any capital cases will require a great deal of evidence.

The aim of the law, he says, is “to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than to punish.”

This comes after Michelle Bachelet, United Nations high commissioner for human rights, condemned Brunei’s new anti-gay laws as “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments.”

In a meeting with UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, Erywan said again that executions of gay men are “unlikely” to happen in practice.

Hunt, who met with Erywan to express the UK’s profound opposition to Brunei’s new penal code, has posted on Twitter to say this defence of the country’s anti-gay laws is unacceptable.  He wrote “Just had the Bruneian foreign minister to my office to drive home the UK’s shock at new Sharia law. We work well together on many issues, but profoundly disagree on this. His suggestion that Sharia prosecutions are in practice unlikely is not acceptable: everyone should be free to be who they are and love who they want.”

The Sultan of Brunei has also defended his country’s new laws, stating that, as a “sovereign Islamic and fully independent country,” Brunei has a right to “enforce its own rule of laws…like all other independent countries.”

Meanwhile, international opposition to the sharia penal code continues to escalate. Celebrities including George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John have called for a boycott of the Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection hotel chain, and a demonstration outside London’s Dorchester hotel last weekend drew hundreds of protesters.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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