BOYCOTTS, protests and global condemnation have greeted plans by Brunei to stone citizens to death if they engage in same-sex sexual activity.

Brunei’s ruler Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has signed off on a new penal code, based on Sharia law, which has a death penalty for a range of activities including rape, adultery, sodomy, blasphemy and declaring oneself a non-Muslim.

Same-sex sexual activity falls under the umbrella of sodomy.

While the introduction of the new laws has been delayed, the government insists their implementation is imminent.

In socially-conservative Brunei, where alcohol is illegal, homosexuality already carries a 10-year prison sentence.

Last year, the country’s leading Islamic scholar Awang Abdul Aziz said that the introduction of the Sharia law would guarantee justice for all.

“It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair,” he said.

Condemnation has been growing with the United Nations urging the oil-rich state to conduct a full review to ensure the laws meet “international human rights standards.”

“Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” said Rupert Colville of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Sexual health advocates working in the area say the new law could severely limit efforts to curtail HIV infection rates and fuel homophobia.

Executive director of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, Midnight Poonkasetwattana, said: “This law will further, if not lead, the discrimination against gay and transgender people.”

The network coordinator for the Islands of South East Asian Network on Male and Transgender Sexual Health, Laurindo Garcia, also voiced concerns: “Our hope is the people of Brunei who are living with or most-affected by HIV are able to access life-saving treatment, care, support and prevention without interrupt or fear of violence.”

Meanwhile, a top end hotel chain owned by the Brunei authorities has become a focus for protesters.

The Dorchester Collection, based in London, has seen demonstrations outside its Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, the cancellation of a conference by a major US LGBTI advocacy group and calls for designers and their staff to boycott the chain’s luxury properties during upcoming fashion weeks.

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