If you're on Instagram as much as I am, you may have seen the latest in Anti-LGBT laws in Brunei: a small island country located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Brunei, officially called the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace, has a history both as a sovereign state and as a British protectorate. It gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1984, currently holds the second-highest Human Development Index amongst Southeast Asian nations (second to Singapore), is ranked as fifth in the world by gross domestic product per capita, and is considered to be the fifth-richest nation out of 182 in the world.
Brunei is ruled by a sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, who also holds the position of the first and incumbent Prime Minister of Brunei. He is considered to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, with an estimated wealth of about $20 billion in 2011. His wealth stems from the oil and gas development in Brunei, and he is known for lavish spending. In addition to the oil and gas, he also owns a string of hotels: The Dorchester Collection.
Recently, it has come to light that the Sultan of Brunei has been behind the legislation to punish adultery and gay sex by stoning individuals to death. This is a gross human rights violation against the LGBT community in Brunei, under the guise of strict religious law. Before these new laws and punishments were announced, homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei, and punishable by up to ten years in prison. The death penalty had been retained, but not carried out since 1957—at least not until these laws came to surface. Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell organized a demonstration outside the Dorchester hotel, and likened these new laws to those put in place by the terrorist organization ISIS:
"What the sultan has done has introduced punishments the same as ISIS implemented in Iraq and Syria during its so-called caliphate, including brutal stoning to death of people convicted of homosexuality, adultery, and insulting the Prophet Muhammad."
As a result of protestors like Tatchell, people are taking note of these injustices against the citizens of Brunei. Over 65,000 people have signed a petition on the United Kingdom parliament's website that called for the government to "urgently call for an end to human rights violations against the LGBT community in Brunei." Celebrities are also doing their parts, as talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and actor George Clooney are amongst those who encourage the public to boycott the chain of luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei.
If you're like me, and probably would never end up staying in one of these luxury hotels, regardless of the situation, here's how you can help protest Brunei's treatment of its LGBT population:
- Stay informed and inform others; just because you won't go to these hotels does not mean that everyone knows about the background behind them, including the Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel
- Sign and spread the petition put up by the UK parliament
- Boycott the Royal Brunei Airlines
Many large businesses are already playing their part by boycotting Brunei's services, and in doing so are making their dissent and disagreement with this new legislation known. Hopefully, it will result in laws promoting the safety of all citizens, rather than laws targeting people.