Sharia laws, which are in breach of international human rights agreements, have today been implemented in Brunei, a small nation on the island of Borneo.
The legislation means punishment of whipping or death by stoning for anyone convicted of same-sex activity, including those under 18 and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.
While homosexuality was illegal and punishable with a prison sentence, the country held off introducing the death penalty in the past due to a huge international backlash.
Internation human rights organisations have been reacting with shock and concern for the LGBT+ community in Brunei.
The European Union today condemned the new laws, saying the punishments breach the UN convention against torture.
Brunei signed up to the convention against torture in 2015.
“Some of the punishments foreseen in the criminal code amount to torture, acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement.
“It is critical that the government of Brunei-Darussalam ensures that the implementation of the Penal Code Order does not infringe on human rights and is fully consistent with all international and regional human rights commitments and obligations undertaken by Brunei-Darussalam,” the statement continued.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International condemned the new penal code. Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Brunei Researcher said, “Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”
Amnesty expressed grave concerns over changes to the Penal Code when they were first proposed in 2014, with the introduction of Islamic criminal law in Brunei. At that time, the nation introduced legal punishments for pregnancy outside marriage and made homosexuality punishable with a prison sentence – though it held off on introducing the death penalty, due to massive international backlash.
A number of celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have called out the inhumane law and called for a boycott of the hotels in the United States and Europe owned by Brunei’s Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled the nation unopposed since 1967 and is one of the wealthiest persons in the world.
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