Advocates and community organisations are calling for action after Brunei moved to introduce death by stoning as the punishment for gay sex and adultery.

The small nation on the South East Asian island of Borneo has been widely criticised for its decision to implement full sharia law, including the draconian penal code, The Guardian reported.

One of the richest nations in the world due to its oil and gas resources, the country has been ruled by the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah since 1967.

Bolkiah issued the directive for the penal code to be implemented, calling it “a great achievement”.

Thorne Harbour Health has called on the federal government to take diplomatic action against Brunei, and to review the government’s travel safety warnings, with the introduction of the laws not changing the government’s travel advice for those visiting Brunei.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth noted that sharia law will apply to travellers on planes and boats registered in the country.

“From 3 April 2019 the full sharia penal code takes effect in Brunei. It applies to Muslims, non-Muslims and foreigners even when on Brunei registered aircraft and vessels.

“Under this code some offences can attract physical punishment while others attract executions.

“This is essentially state-sponsored brutality against people of diverse gender and sexuality and a violation of basic human rights — there’s no place for it,” Ruth said.

“The Federal Government must immediately revoke Royal Brunei Airlines right to land in Australia to keep sexuality and gender diverse Australians safe from Brunei’s new laws.

“There should also be a review into the effectiveness of Government’s travel warnings for LGBTI people.”

The government’s latest travel safety advice for Brunei remains unchanged at ‘exercise normal safety precautions’ despite the imminent enforcement of physical punishment and potential execution.

Ruth questioned the utility of applying travel advice only at a general level.

“It goes beyond government action – we need to take action collectively to say laws specifically punishing our LGBTI communities for being who they are have no place in society,” he said.

Thorne Harbour Health is also calling on the federal government to rescind Royal Brunei Airlines’ permissions to fly to Australia, and for Melbourne Airport to refuse to refuel or accept flights from the airline.

The organisation also called on travel agencies like Flight Centre and STA Travel to stop selling the airline’s flights.

George Clooney has also backed a called for an economic boycott on Brunei’s international interests, including the famed Bel-Air and Beverly Hills Hotels in Los Angeles.

“But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery,” Clooney wrote in an open letter on industry trade publication Deadline.

These Sultan-owned hotels were subject to a boycott in 2014 when Brunei first indicated it would implement sharia law while, at the same time, the Brunei-owned properties were marketing hotel packages to LGBTI travellers.

At the time, the AFL severed a sponsorship deal with Royal Brunei Airlines when it was announced that the laws would be implemented in 2015.

Human rights advocates believe that the widespread global backlash to the implementation is why it has taken so long for the laws to come into effect.

Homosexuality has remained illegal in Brunei as a hangover from British colonial rule, which ended in 1984.

Brunei, however, has joined conservative parts of Malaysia and Indonesia in beginning to hand down punishments for gay sex.

Under the laws, people – including children – who are found guilty of theft could also be punished with amputation.

Amnesty International has condemned the laws, calling them “cruel and inhuman” and “appalling”.

“Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender,” said researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard.

“These abusive provisions received widespread condemnation when plans were first discussed five years ago.

“Brunei’s Penal Code is a deeply flawed piece of legislation containing a range of provisions that violate human rights.

“As well as imposing cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, it blatantly restricts the rights to freedom of expression, religion, and belief, and codifies discrimination against women and girls.

“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”

Neil Pharaoh has organised a petition calling on the federal government to enact the ban on Royal Brunei Airlines, which at time of publication has just over 2,200 signatures.

You can sign the petition by clicking here.

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