Brunei Becoming Anti-LGBTQ

Sophie Jeffery, Editor

After Wednesday, April 3, the country of Brunei will pass legislation to punish gay people by stoning them to death, and to arrest lesbian couples for up to 10 years. This decision was made because the Islamic law that Brunei follows does not allow same-sex relationships. Rape and adultery have also been made punishable. The Sultan, a Muslim sovereign, had actually set the stage for Brunei to be the First Southeast Asian country to follow Sharia law (strict Islamic laws) in 2013, and this new law completed the process. Many Human Rights Activists are calling out Brunei for the new law, and prominent celebrities, such as Ellen DeGeneres and George Clooney are urging people to boycott hotels owned by the Brunei government.

My first reaction upon hearing this news was one of shock. Having grown up in a country where same-sex marriage is legal right now, I never considered what it would be like to live in a place where being part of the LGBTQ+ community could get you jailed or killed. America still has a long way to go before everyone feels safe to be “out of the closet,” but at least people are allowed to be themselves. As an ally, I cannot imagine what people feel like when they cannot be true to themselves, and I feel devastated for those in Brunei that are in a dangerous situation.

Furthermore, what kind of punishment is stoning to death? This is a brutal punishment that should never be imposed on anyone – especially those who are being punished for loving someone.  It’s not like these people are killing others or causing anyone harm in any way, shape or form. I don’t understand why same-sex relationships are lumped into the same category as rape and adultery; that is an extra insult to the LGBTQ+ community. These are people who simply love someone that happens to be of the same sex as them. American states that allow the death penalty either use a lethal injection or a firing squad. Stoning to death, on the other hand, is a form of both public humiliation and prolonged torturous death.

I understand the cultural differences and beliefs that exist among religions, but the use of violence to carry them out, especially in this case, is extremely inhumane. While I respect people’s religions and their rights to practice their beliefs, I find it devastating when one person’s beliefs limit another person’s self-expression. Religious laws were written hundreds of years ago, and while there is always importance and value in tradition, the times have changed and people in general are more open-minded. I understand that the relationship between religion and the LGBTQ+ community can be tense at times depending on people interpret as morally right or wrong, but people do not need to impose their own opinions on others. Everyone should live according to who they are and what they believe. Many people from different minority groups are speaking up for themselves around the world, and human rights issues are dominating the news. This is amazing, but nothing will change for these people unless both society and the government act to fulfill these hopes for equality. I wish that every country could move forward and make the world a safer place for everybody, whether it’s steps to racial, gender, or LGBTQ+ equality, but Brunei is taking steps backwards. Since the LGBTQ+ community began to openly campaign for more rights around the world, it has seemed as though there have been many steps forward which have allowed people of all genders and sexualities to access their rights. While progress hasn’t always happened quickly, this law is the opposite of those steps forward, and banishing a right that used to exist is soul-crushing to those that are affected by it.

This development angers me, and if you are as upset as I am, just take a moment to think about how fortunate we are to live in a country where being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is legal. Even in the United States, there are stigmas around people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and we are lucky to live in a part of this country where people can live openly and safely. It’s important to advocate for all people’s rights if you can.