GAY people and cheating spouses can now be stoned to death in Brunei after horrific new Sharia laws came into force today.
Same-sex couples could also be whipped under the strict new Islamic laws in the tiny nation, which is on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
The move to make gay sex an offence punishable by stoning to death has sparked international condemnation and outcry.
The majority Muslim nation already implements Sharia laws, with homosexuality punishable with up to ten years in prison.
But from today, the government is planning to change the penal code to mean LGBT+ people could be stoned to death for same-sex activity.
Under the new laws, thieves could also have their right hand amputated for a first offence and the left foot for a second.
The punishments – which also apply to children – are in new sections under Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code.
Brunei was the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law in 2014 when it announced the first of three stages of legal changes.
This included fines or jail for offences like pregnancy outside marriage or failing to pray on Friday.
The country delayed implementing the final two stages of changes after an international backlash in 2014.
But they are now going ahead with plans, according to Matthew Woolfe, founder of human rights group The Brunei Project.
Manila-based OutRight Action International also confirmed Brunei was about to implement a new stage in its Sharia laws.
The Brunei Prime Minister’s Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
“We are trying to get pressure placed on the government of Brunei but realise there is a very short time frame until the laws take effect,” Woolfe said, calling on governments to step up diplomatic pressure on Brunei.
“It took us by surprise that the government has now given a date and is rushing through implementation,” said the Australia-based campaigner.
Woolfe said there had been no major public announcements on the implementation of the penal code changes aside from a statement on attorney general’s website late December which only came to light this week.
‘APPALLING’ NEW LAWS
Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International, said some of the potential offences “should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender”.
She added: “To legalise such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself.
“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its penal code in compliance with its human rights obligations.
“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”
Brunei, a former British protectorate of about 400,000 nestled between two Malaysian states, is the first country in East Asia to adopt the criminal component of Sharia at a national level.
“The full implementation of Sharia penal law will apply severe penalties against consensual same-sex relations, including death penalty via stoning,” Ryan Silverio, a coordinator at ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, said in an email.
Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s most prominent LGBT+ activists, said it would be a gross violation of international human rights if the changes went ahead.
“It is horrible. Brunei is imitating the most conservative Arab states,” he said.
MUSLIM RULEBOOK: What is Sharia law?
Sharia law is the legal system of Islam, derived from both the Koran – the central religious text of Islam – and fatwas – the rulings of Islamic scholars.
The Arabic word Sharia originally meant “way” or “path” and refers to the revealed law of God.
Offences are divided into two general categories in Sharia law.
Serious crimes, or “hadd” offences, have set penalties – for example theft is punishable by amputating the perpetrator’s hand, while adultery can carry the penalty of being stoned to death.
Not all Muslim countries adopt or enforce such punishments.
Lesser crimes, known as “tazir”, are left to the discretion of a judge to be dealt with.