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A Tiny Nation's New Laws Are Jolting the World

Adultery, gay sex punishable by death in Brunei under laws set to come into force Wednesday
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2019 8:47 AM CDT
In this April 23, 2013, photo, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, one of the landmarks of Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei.   (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
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(Newser) – The official name of the tiny nation of Brunei is Negara Brunei Darussalam, with Negara meaning country and Darussalam translating to "abode of peace." Outraged people around the world might find that latter part a misnomer. Brunei was on Wednesday set to introduce the most drastic elements of its sharia penal code, a penal code the AP reports was enacted in 2014 but whose laws saw a staggered start, with the most contentious ones being delayed—until now. Adultery and sex between two men are punishable by death under the new laws. CNN reports sex between two women is punishable by 100 lashes. Those convicted of theft can have their right hand amputated; on the second offense, their left foot. More:

  • The Guardian reports Brunei now stands alone in east and southeast Asia as having a national sharia penal code.
  • As for the motivation, the AP sees it as part of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's effort to make Islam a more prominent force in the country; about two-thirds of its 430,000 people are Muslim. But the Guardian presents a different theory: that the sultan is trying to "shore up support among the country’s conservatives due to the waning fortunes of the oil-dependent economy, which has been ravaged by recession in recent years."
  • The BBC speaks with the head of human rights group the Brunei Project, who offered this take: "Connected to this is [Brunei's] interest in attracting more investment from the Muslim world, along with more Islamic tourists ... this could be seen as one way of appealing to this market."

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