Tue. Apr 23rd, 2019

A gay man from Brunei doubts that there are stoning despite the harshness of the Penal Code

A gay man from Brunei doubts that there are stoning despite the harshness of the Penal Code

Shahiran, a Brunei who declared his homosexuality after leaving his country, expresses doubts that Brunei will lapidate males convicted of sodomy, while the LGBT community will continue to lead clandestine lives in a climate of oppression.

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This small and prosperous Southeast Asian nation approved last week a reform of the Penal Code that contemplates the death penalty by stoning for the crime of sodomy between males if the accused is Muslim and admits the crime or there are four witnesses of the act, according to the "sharia" or Islamic law.

Shahiran, who fled the sultanate in 2018 after being accused of sedition after criticizing the government and now prosecutes his asylum application in Canada, underlines the invisibility of LGBT (Lesbians, Gais, Bisexuals and Transsexuals) in the country.

"I do not think they will ever stone anyone, but there is a risk that they start sending people to prison (...) It's hard for the homosexuals who live there, they say 'be fine' for their own peace, and they do not they contemplate the possibility of the opposite, "Efe Shahiran states in a telephone conversation.

Before the last reform, homosexuality was already illegal in the country and punishable by 10 years in prison.

"If I had stayed in Brunei, I would have kept my sexual option silent, and no one in my family knew it when I decided to say it once I left the country," says the Brunei.

"Returning to the country, he could be prosecuted under the pretext of admitting" being homosexual, "remarks Shahiran, 30, who worked as a civil servant in the sultanate.

Brunei, in the north of the island of Borneo and prosperous thanks to its huge reserves of oil and gas, began to introduce punishments based on Islamic law in 2014, with a first battery of amendments for less harsh sentences.

However, following pressure from the international community and a boycott against the network of companies under the patronage of the Sultanate, he then suspended plans to introduce penalties such as stoning for sodomy and adultery; mutilation of limbs for theft; or the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy.

Shahiran, who acknowledges that he was angry at this international campaign against his country, assures that the laws of the "sharia" are already in practice in the sultanate, citing as examples the imposition of a male guardian for women or the punishments for premarital relationships.

In a letter, published by the rights-guarantor organization The Brunei Project, Jack, identified as a Bruneian homosexual, argues the lack of criticism against the "sharia" within Brunei for the ironclad control of the authorities over the media and the laws that repress freedom of expression.

"Our country does not make it easier for the LGBT community, this law will inevitably affect people, especially teenagers who are in the process of discovering their identity, they will be confused because their own country, which they love and are proud of, he rejects them with vehemence, "he argues.

The United Nations or countries such as Australia, Germany or Spain, among others, have expressed concern about the backsliding in the field of human rights in Brunei that entails these punishments, also present in a dozen countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Sudan.

Actor George Clooney recovered at the end of March the call to boycott the sultanate's business, including a chain of luxury hotels in Europe and the United States, a measure seconded by other celebrities.

The hotel company Dorchester Collection, operated by the Investment Agency of Brunei, said it "does not tolerate any form of discrimination" through a statement posted on its Instagram profile.

The parent company also announced that it deactivated the profiles of its hotels - among them the Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, Plaza Athenee in Paris or The Dorchester in London - as a result of the attacks directed against its employees.

Brunei has about 430,000 inhabitants, of whom 70% profess Islam.

Noel Caballero


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