The Sultan of Brunei announced that he would begin phasing in the internationally criticized sharia penal code today.
The sharia law introduces highly conservative Islamic government to both private and public aspects of life. The new penal code will come into effect in three phases – each phase carrying more severe punishments.
The first phase includes prosecution for offenses such as pregnancy outside of marriage, promoting religions other than Islam, and failure to perform the traditional Friday prayers.
The second phase will come into effect a year from now and will include punishments such as amputation and whipping for theft and alcohol consumption.
The final phase will come into effect in two years will carry the death penalty, sometimes by stoning, for adultery, sodomy, and blasphemy.
The announcement of the new laws has caused international outrage among celebrities, Facebookers, and human rights activists and politicians alike.
Celebrities Ellen Degeneres and Stephen Fry both announced on Twitter that they would boycott the Sultan owned Dorchester Collection hotels until the “stone the gays” laws were lifted. Similarly, the sharia law outrage has been trending on Facebook all day.
Amnesty International insists that the new laws “will take the country back to the dark ages when it comes to human rights.”
“Brunei Darussalam’s new Penal Code legalizes cruel and inhuman punishments. It makes a mockery of the country’s international human rights commitments and must be revoked immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.
Rupert Colville, spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke against the measures in a press conference in Geneva in early April.
“Under international law, stoning people to death constituted torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and was thus clearly prohibited. A number of UN studies had also revealed that women were more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotyping against them,” Colville said.
The laws will apply to everyone. This is of particular concern to the approximately 80,000 non-Muslim residents of Brunei – including large Buddhist and Christian sects – who would be breaking laws every day.
Reuters reports that those who protest the laws will also be punished under them.
The government’s official website quotes the Sultan as saying he "does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them.”
Brunei is the first East Asian country to adopt the laws, although sources state other countries are considering it.