The Sultan of Brunei has announced that he is halting his country’s law mandating the death penalty for homosexuality.
Here’s what we know
In March, Brunei approved measures that would have mandated stoning and whipping to death as punishments for homosexuality, adultery, and rape. The country also added amputation as a penalty for theft, even if the culprit was a child.
Brunei adopted Shariah law in 2014, and has enacted additional laws since then to bring them more closely inline with Shariah.
World governments protested the move, as did celebrities like George Clooney and Elton John who called for a boycott of hotels owned by the Brunei’s sultan and prime minister, Hassanal Bolkiah.
On Sunday, the sultan backed down from these harsh punishments and announced that he was placing a moratorium on these penalties.
“I am aware that there are all sorts of questions and misconceptions on the implementation” the sultan said, according to the Washington Post. “For that, we have given clarification. We are conscious of the fact that these misconceptions may cause apprehension.”
It does not appear that the moratorium applied to the law allowing for amputation as a punishment for those convicted of theft.
But the sultan also defended the laws: “Both the common law and the Shariah law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country. They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the public as well as respecting the privacy of individuals.”
Brunei had a population of 450,565, according to the CIA World Factbook. Most of the population (78.8 percent) is Muslim, although there are significant Christian (8.7 percent) and Buddhist (7.8 percent) minorities. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has ruled the country since 1967.
Even with Brunei halting this rule, homosexuality is still punishable by death in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.