Sultan of Brunei Calls for Sharia Law to Expand as Gay Death Penalty Introduced
Country is first to have sharia penal code introduced at a national level
The Sultan of Brunei has declared he wants 'Islamic teachings to grow stronger' following the news of new sharia laws that punish gay sex and adultery coming into force it the country.
The unforgiving law in the country on tropical Borneo island, which is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, came into force following repeated setbacks.
Brunei the first place in East or Southeast Asia to have sharia penal code at the national level, which includes punishments like amputation of hands and feet for thieves.
Under the laws, crimes like rape and robbery carry a death sentence, such as capital punishment for insulting the Prophet Mohammed, which applies to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.
There is a growing concern around the world following the decision t push ahead with the extreme punishments, with the United Nations identifying them 'cruel and inhumane.'
The sultan called for stronger Islamic teachings but failed to mention the new penal code.
'I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger,' he said in the nationally televised speech.
The Sultan, who has ruled for over five decades, insisted Brunei was a 'fair' country and claimed it was safe for visitors.
But the new sharia laws have sparked condemnation from across the world.
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the code was 'barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn't even be crimes.'
The European Union said some of the new punishments' amount to torture, acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,' according to a statement.
The small l lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the country are said to be particularly upset.
The new code specifies death by stoning, an already horrific way to die, as punishment for sex between men.
An anonymous 33-year-old gay Bruneian man said the new laws were 'unfair, cruel and should not happen.'
'It really takes away my happiness and freedom to express myself, and depresses me so much,' he told AFP.
According to Zulhelmi bin Mohamad, a transgender woman who fled Brunei before seeking asylum in Canada said the new laws would be terrifying for the LGBT community.
'Some worry a lot and would like to escape the country before they are found out not to be... heterosexual,' the 19-year-old said.
A religious affairs ministry official told AFP:
'The statement from the prime minister's office last weekend on (the codes) implementation prevails, hence (April 3) marks the date of its implementation.'