Brunei: Labour Calls For Country To Be Suspended From Commonwealth Over Gay Sex Stoning Law

Backlash grows over “appalling” new powers.

Brunei is facing a growing and global backlash against its strict new laws which make gay sex an offence punishable by stoning to death, with the Labour Party demanding the country is suspended from the Commonwealth.

Homosexuality is illegal in the east Asian country and punishable by up to ten years imprisonment but changes to Brunei’s penal Shariah code mean punishments could now include whipping and stoning to death for people found guilty of adultery, sodomy and rape.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah originally instituted the code in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the oil-rich monarchy of around 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim, but have now taken it a step further.

During an urgent commons statement, Labour called for Brunei to be suspended from the Commonwealth if it presses ahead with the plans.

Foreign office minister Mark Field responded by saying the UK government considers it “appalling” that such laws have been introduced in the 21st Century, adding: “We consider it illegal under international human rights law.”

Shadow foreign office minister Khalid Mahmood said the “evil” decision by the country was a “step back into the darkness”.

“It is time for the Commonwealth to draw a line in the sand on LGBT rights,” he said. “That must be drawn now.

“It has turned a blind eye when it comes to LGBT discrimination.”

Labour’s LGBT+ group are planning a protest on Saturday afternoon outside The Dorchester Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Organisers said: “We will be protesting to shine a light on the new anti-LGBT laws brought in by the Sultan of Brunei, and to send a clear message that LGBT Labour utterly condemns these barbaric and vicious laws, and stands with the LGBT community of Brunei.”

The call comes as a petition for the UK government to take action on the parliament website reached more than 16,000 signatures.

Students from Oxford University and the University of Aberdeen are campaigning for the honorary degrees their respective universities have previously awarded to the Sultan to be revoked.

In response, Oxford University announced it will not be rescinding the honorary degree while University of Aberdeen promised to review the degree “as a matter of urgency”.

Meanwhile Ellen DeGeneres joined Elton John and George Clooney among other celebrities in calling for a boycott of all hotels owned by the Sultan.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty UK, told HuffPost UK that it’s not surprising that there has been such a strong international reaction to the countries “heinous punishments” for activities that shouldn’t be considered crimes.

“Celebrity boycotts of luxury hotels linked to the government of Brunei will help keep the spotlight on the inhuman penal code that is being introduced.

“But ultimately it is pressure from states that will lead Brunei to step back from such cruel inhuman and degrading punishments such as stoning and amputation.

“We urge the UK to raise this issue with the utmost urgency at the highest diplomatic levels. Otherwise the message to lawmakers in Brunei will be that the international community doesn’t care.”

In Brunei, members of the country’s LGBTQ community expressed their fears as new Islamic criminal laws took effect on Wednesday.

“Living in Brunei, we already knew that our sexual identity is taboo and should not be expressed.

“We already felt belittled before the law came to place,” a 23-year-old member of the LGBTQ community who wanted to be identified only as Kun out of fear of reprisal from the authorities told the Press Association.

“Now with it, we feel even smaller and the ones who could potentially oppress us have more opportunity to harass us to say and do what they want,” he said.