Recently, many celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John, have taken to social media to urge a boycott of certain hotels. These hotels are owned by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah. The purpose of the boycott is to protest Brunei's new penal code, which employs overly harsh punishments for acts that are normally not regarded as crimes.
Most notably, people can be stoned to death for having gay sex or an extramarital affair.
More specifically, stoning is used for gay men, while sex between two women is punished by whipping. Adultery, anal sex, and abortion will also be punished by stoning. Other punishments include amputation of limbs for theft and the death penalty for rape or heresy. It's clear why these celebrities are outraged at Brunei's new law.
The news of Brunei's penal code comes as a shock, especially in 2019. The law employs punishments that are very much outdated and easily defined as barbaric. Furthermore, these punishments apply to anyone who has reached puberty, even those who are considered minors by Western standards, and young children can still be whipped as punishment. These punishments are needlessly brutal. Punishments such as the amputation of limbs are irreversible and leave a permanent impact on a person for even a minor transgression.
The actions included in the penal code do not warrant such harsh punishments. Criminalizing sexual identity is appalling, likewise that a country would sentence gay people to stoning at this point in time. This seems to be the main focus of the celebrities who have spoken out against Brunei, and for good reason. While steps have been made worldwide towards equal rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community, Brunei's penal code is a huge step backward.
While it's good to keep the list of hotels to boycott in mind, for those of us who aren't traveling very often, the best thing to do is to speak out and bring attention to the injustice of Brunei's penal code. The penal code was initially delayed by international protest, and spreading the word and making Brunei's law widely known can make the difference in pressuring the country to change the law. This is an issue that requires immediate attention and action.
Brunei's penal code is unjust and a hindrance to the progress being made towards marriage equality and LGBTQ+ rights.