- Olivia Harris/Reuters
- Brunei has hit back at criticism of its new anti-LGBT laws, calling for “respect” from the international community.
- The laws make homosexuality and sodomy, as well as adultery and rape offenses punishable by death by stoning.
- The tiny Muslim nation said the new laws are meant to prevent rather than punish, and to safeguard family values, and admitted they will be very hard to enforce.
- Critics have called the punishment “cruel and inhuman.”
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Brunei has hit back at criticism of its new anti-LGBT laws, calling for “respect” from the international community, and admitting that the laws will be extremely difficult to enforce.
The laws, introduced last week, make homosexuality, along with sodomy, adultery, and rape offenses, punishable by death by stoning.
They have been widely criticised in the West, with the punishment of homosexuality with death being most strongly condemned.
After the announcement sparked global indignation from human rights organizations and celebrities, Brunei’s mission to the UN published a defense on Monday.
In the document, Brunei rejected criticisms and said human rights “must be considered in the national context” of the tiny Muslim nation.
It continued, saying the laws are aimed at preventing acts between same-sex couples in the first place, rather than punishing them retroactively.
“The [law system] does not criminalize nor has any intention to victimize a person’s status based on sexual orientation or belief, including same-sex relations,” the mission wrote.
“The criminalization of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims particularly women.”
Because the laws specifically target the maintenance of Muslim values, they will not apply to people of other faiths, said the mission. But non-Muslims may be subject to punishment if they involve a Muslim in an offence.
The body stressed that punishment required “extremely high evidentiary threshold” of two to four men of high moral standing witnessing the acts.
It also said the country’s signature to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment demonstrates its commitment to human rights.
However, Brunei has still not ratified the convention, according to Amnesty International. The NGO’s Brunei Researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard called on the international community to condemn the “vicious” punishments.
“To legalize such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself. Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender,” she said.
Critics also accuse the nation’s leader Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of hypocrisy given his previous reputation as a big-spending playboy.
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider on Tuesday that some of the royals’ past behavior could be considered punishable under the new laws.
“If the sultan wishes to live a more virtuous life, that’s his business, but he … should not be promoting medieval punishments like death by stoning, whipping, and amputations for anyone or violating the rights of people because of who they chose to love,” said Robertson.