Brunei says it will not enforce law to punish gay sex with death by stoning after facing immense backlash

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the monarch of the country, extended a moratorium on May 5 on the death penalty to cover the new legislationand even defended the new rules by saying that their 'merit' would become clear.


                            Brunei says it will not enforce law to punish gay sex with death by stoning after facing immense backlash

The country of Brunei has now backtracked on laws that were introduced last month which would have made sex between men and any form of adultery punishable by stoning to death. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the monarch of the country, extended a moratorium on May 5 on the death penalty to cover the new legislation. The sudden change comes after a global backlash over the archaic laws and included boycotts and protests from prominent celebrities.

Even though it is still in the books for some crimes in the country, Brunei has not carried out any executions since 1957. In April this year, the country came up with a more stringent version of Islamic Laws or Sharia, the BBC reported.

Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah arrives at the Lotus Theatre ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government 2013 Opening Ceremony on November 15, 2013, in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Source: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

In a speech that he gave recently, the Sultan said that he is aware that there have been "many questions and misperceptions" regarding the implementation of the legislation, which is called Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO). Although he said that a moratorium on the death penalty will now be applied to the SPCO, the Sultan has also defended the new rules by saying that their "merit" would become clear.

The speech reportedly marks the first time that the monarch has spoken out publicly about the legislation since they were introduced. Homosexuality was already illegal in the country and can land you in jail for up to 10 years. The country's population of 420,000 is mostly Muslim who comprise two-thirds of the total number. 

Brunei first introduced Sharia Law in 2014, giving it a dual legal system with both Sharia and Common Law. The first phase has covered crimes punishable by prison sentences and fines. The new laws that were introduced on April 3 marked the latest phase of the legislation, and covered crimes which were punishable by amputation and stoning.

Under this new legislation: all offenses such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad carry the maximum penalty as death, lesbian sex can get you 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years behind bars, theft carries the punishment of amputation. 

Others under the legislation including the one that says those individuals who "persuade, tell or encourage" Muslim children under 18-years-old to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam" can be given a fine or sent to jail, and individuals who haven't hit puberty but have been convicted of certain offenses may be subjected to a whipping.

The outlandish laws received international backlash and put the small South-East Asian country into the global limelight. Before the laws were implemented, the UN had warned that the laws contravened international human rights standards that had been set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was ratified by the country in 2016.

Many celebrities including George Clooney and Elton John had called for a boycott of the luxury hotels which were linked to Brunei, over the new legislation. Clooney said that the new laws amounted to "human rights violations". Many in the country's gay community have also expressed their fear and shock at the punishments.