A bisexual man who lives in Brunei opened up about the recent anti-LGBTI law taking effecting and what it’s like to live in the Southeastern Asian country.
While speaking to the Washington Blade from Bandar Seri Bagawan, the Bruneian capital, he lamented the government’s use of Sharia law and Islam to justify the penal code.
‘Our religion is one of peace and one of tolerance,’ he commented. ‘I don’t see it as righteous or pious… it’s weaponizing religion.’
On 3 April, the Sharia law punishing homosexual sex with death by stoning went into effect. It also includes whipping for those condemned for adultery or rape, and the amputation of hands and feet for convicted thieves.
The full penal code began to take effect in 2014, with this portion only being initiated now.
‘My reaction to the news is really just now of confusion,’ the man said. ‘Why now? After a 5-year gap? And all at once?’
He identifies as a liberal Muslim and has been with his partner since last year.
The rest of the country is more split on the law.
The man described in an email to the Blade: ‘The reaction in general has been polarizing. There are those strongly opposed to it, and others in reverent support. But from what I see, those in support don’t seem to really know what they are supporting, at least not in a critical analytical sense.’
He claims people in support of the law don’t realize the ‘impacts’ of it or ‘don’t care’.
How life goes on
‘I try to live my life the most socially acceptable way that I can,’ the man continued his statements to the Blade. ‘It’s both worse and better than what people expect here, but again it’s still early to say.’
He is currently banned from leaving the country because he criticized Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, on YouTube in 2015.
He said his ‘behavior hasn’t changed since the whole thing started’ but his family wants him to keep a low profile.
In the interview, he warned of larger consequences because of the law, both for LGBTI people and the country at large.
‘Right now, it has been a serious challenge to expand the local job market and attract outside investors into the country,’ he explained. ‘With these laws in place, it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine such laws as discouraging to would-be investors.’
There are already boycotts of the country’s hotels around the world, and consequences for the country’s economy could worsen.
The man told the Blade government pressure ‘helps’. Numerous government bodies around the world have condemned Brunei’s new law, but in the US, Donald Trump and his administration have yet to do so, other than the State Department saying they are ‘concerned’.
Author: Anya Crittenton
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