Statement on the implementation of the Sharia Penal Code in Brunei
3rd April 2019
In 2013, the Brunei government adopted the Sharia Penal Code that would punish sodomy, adultery, and rape with the death penalty by stoning and whipping. Implementation of the law has been rolled out gradually since then, with the final phase scheduled for this week. This plan has been criticized by human rights groups in the region and around the world, but the Government of Brunei defended its rights to implement the law.
As the Government of Brunei stated in its press release regarding the issue on 30 March 2019: “Brunei Darussalam is a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country, and like all other independent countries, enforces its own rule of laws.” However, as a Member State of the United Nations, the Government of Brunei is committed to upholding the highest standards of human rights for its people. Moreover, as a signatory of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Brunei “shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction…” including the acts of punishment prescribed in the Sharia Penal Code. Full implementation of the Sharia Penal Code will compromise Brunei’s commitment to protecting and promoting the human rights of its citizens, while putting some of them under high risk of harassment and surveillance by law enforcement.
ILGA Asia calls on the Government of Brunei to halt the implementation of the Sharia Penal Code, and engage meaningful consultations with the communities most affected by the law, such as LGBT community, women, as well as with other human rights bodies and experts. We urge the Government to uphold its obligations to protect the rights and lives of its population.
ILGA Asia would like to call for attention of the LGBT community, the feminists, and the community of human rights defenders in Brunei to the implementation of the Sharia Penal Code, and the implication it has on the lives of LGBT individuals in the country, so that strategies could be formulated to reduce any risk it may have on the community.
We also would like to call for solidarity from the community of human rights defenders, the media and the press, human rights institutions, international multilateral agencies, and governmental and diplomatic bodies around Asia. Since 2014, we have witnessed the development trend in Asia to embrace diversity and human rights of all people, including those who were historically marginalized by social and legal frameworks, such as women, lesbian and gay couples, trans people, intersex people, etc. These positive legal and social changes happen in countries like India, Pakistan, and Vietnam, among others, some of which share similarities with Brunei in social, cultural and religious context. Not only does the Sharia Penal Code of Brunei violate basic human rights, it also goes against the ongoing trend and collective efforts in the region to better promote human rights and freedoms for all.
To all the human rights defenders, women, feminists and those of the LGBTQ community in Brunei that are suffering from fear, stay strong and courageous. We are with you!
In profound solidarity,