Brunei has finally thought wiser of its anti-gay law.
Back in March, we shared with you the news that Brunei had updated national law to give a death by stoning punishment for people caught having gay sex. That law, within the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO), then went into effect the following month.
In reaction to this, several celebrities and organizations openly condemned the law and started boycotting Brunei. Despite all of this, the country stated its interest in elevating tourism. Perhaps that is why the country has now decided to not enforce the death by stoning.
According to Reuters, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah extended a moratorium on the punishment and similar ones.
“I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the SPCO. However, we believe that once these have been cleared, the merit of the law will be evident,” the sultan said in a speech to signify the coming start of Ramadan.
“As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission.”
“Both the common law and the Syariah law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country,” he added before saying, “They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the country as well as the privacy of individuals.”
This is a surprise act from Bokiah, who rarely responds to international criticism of him and his actions. In fact, he said last year that he wants “Islamic teachings to grow stronger” after initially receiving disapproval. That said, the widespread pushback from celebrities and organizations like Ellen DeGeneres, George Clooney, Elton John, the United Nations, the Human Rights Watch, and more was extremely aggressive.
Part of those protests was focused on boycotting hotels owned by the sultan including the Dorchester in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Several international companies even put a ban on staff using hotels owned by the sultan and some travel companies have stopped promoting tourism to Brunei.
So, it appears that when fighting anti-gay law from a foreign continent, the best route to create change is hitting them where it counts. Their wallet.
That said, will this decision last? Right now, Brunei has neglected to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In addition, they have rejected all recommendations to do so during the human rights review with the UN in 2014. If Brunie were to ratify the convention, punishments like stoning and amputation would be barred. With that still hanging over Brunei’s head, it’s a wonder if the country, and its sultan, will eventually revert this decision on the SPOC delay.