Brunei is introducing strict new Islamic laws that make anal s*x and adultery offences punishable by stoning to death.
The new measures, that come into force on Wednesday, also cover a range of other crimes including punishment for theft by amputation.
The move has sparked international condemnation.
Brunei’s gay community has expressed shock and fear at the “medieval punishments”.
“You wake up and realise that your neighbours, your family or even that nice old lady that sells prawn fritters by the side of the road doesn’t think you’re human, or is okay with stoning,” one Bruneian gay man, who did not want to be identified, told the BBC.
The sultan of the small south-east Asian nation on Wednesday called for “stronger” Islamic teachings.
“I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger,” Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said at a public address, according to AFP news agency, without mentioning the new laws.
Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Muslims make up about two-thirds of the country’s population of 420,000. Brunei has retained the death penalty but has not carried out an execution since 1957.
What is punishable under the changes to the penal code?
The law mostly applies to Muslims, including children who have reached puberty, though some aspects will apply to non-Muslims.
Under the new laws, individuals accused of certain acts will only be convicted if they confess or if there were witnesses present.
- Offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad will carry the maximum penalty of death.
- Lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail
- The punishment for theft is amputation
- Those who “persuade, tell or encourage” Muslim children under the age of 18 “to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam” are liable to a fine or jail
Individuals who have not reached puberty but are convicted of certain offences may be instead subjected to whipping.
What has global reaction been?
Sultan Hassanal heads the Brunei Investment Agency, which owns some of the world’s top hotels including the Dorchester in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.
Brunei’s ruling royals possess a huge private fortune and its largely ethnic-Malay residents enjoy generous state handouts and pay no taxes.
But Hollywood actor George Clooney and other celebrities have now called for a boycott of the luxury hotels. TV host Ellen DeGeneres also called for people to “rise up”, saying “we need to do something now”.