Boycotts, Condemnation, and Public Outcry: The World Reacts to Brunei’s Stoning Law

Despite international pressure, the Sultan of Brunei is committed to enforcing Sharia law.

On April 3, Brunei instituted a new law punishing adultery and gay sex with whipping and death by stoning. The international community has reacted with condemnation, boycotts, direct action, and outcry, but the Sultan of Brunei remains unmoved.

The nation has defended itself, with a statement from the prime minister’s office, saying it was “a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country and, like all other independent countries, enforces its own rule of law.”

Members of the LGBTQ community in Brunei are fleeing for their lives as the new stricter laws come into effect, while tourists are left in the dark as to whether or not they too could be subject to the Sharia law punishments that now constitute the “rule of law.”

Boycotts and Protests

clooney elton john boycott brunei
VALERIE MACON / Contributor / Getty Images
George Clooney; Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei; Elton John

There have been renewed calls for a boycott, of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, similar to what occurred in 2014. This time around, George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Billie Jean King, Jonathan Van Ness, Dustin Lance Black, and others are helping lead the charge.

Sultan of Brunei owned hotels
FRED DUFOUR / Contributor / Getty Images

Protests have also been carried out in London and in Italy (as seen in the above feature image).

Canadian activist Jordan Tannahill, along with accomplices Andy Field, Crispin Lord, and Nick Finegan, demonstrated at London’s Dorchester Hotel, calling for solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Brunei. Video of that demonstration can be found below.

“We cannot sit by as our LGBT+ sisters and brothers in Brunei, or indeed anywhere, are dehumanised, brutalised, and murdered. The action yesterday was a gesture of solidarity,” Tannahill told NewNowNext on Friday. “And hopefully it draws attention to the ways in which we are implicated, through the businesses we chose to patronise, with the oppression of others elsewhere.”

In response to the attention, Brunei-owned hotels have gone dark on social media.

STA Travel has severed ties with Royal Brunei Airlines, and Transport for London (TfL) has removed ads for Royal Brunei Airlines, and universities that have given Bolkiah honorary degrees, such as King’s College London, University of Aberdeen, and the University of Oxford, are being called on to revoke them.

International Condemnation

The international community has raised alarms over the new law, including Britain, Australia, and the United States, although the U.S. has backed off giving a clear condemnation.

The situation has drawn attention not only to Brunei, but the numerous other countries around the world that still criminalize homosexuality, including Commonwealth members.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland has said she “strongly urged” the Brunei government to repeal the law, and noted the law would bring about “cruel and inhuman punishments which contravene international human rights law and standards.”

Outcry

The public outcry over the violent anti-LGBTQ laws so far appears to be falling on deaf ears, but advocates continue to push for reconsideration.

“The eyes of the world are on Brunei today, and we must all speak with one voice against this barbaric law that threatens LGBTQ people with death by stoning and torture,” said HRC Director of Global Partnerships Jean Freedberg in a statement.

“Given the urgency of this situation, it is increasingly crucial that the United States show moral leadership and join the international community in speaking out against these human rights abuses. We need to seize this moment and demand that Brunei repeal this law without delay.”

Sultan of Brunei
Getty Images

If Brunei carries on ignoring the international community, it could face the consequences it was avoiding in a globalized culture when it delayed implementation years ago.

Still, the race to distance itself from “the West,” and the desire to show independence and adherence to Sharia law appear to be weighing more heavily on the oil-rich nation’s decision making. And unless powerful sanctions befall the country, don’t expect to balk, even in the face of celebrity-backed boycotts.

Journalist, editor, and artist.