May 19, 2019

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Brunei Now Penalizes Homosexuality with Death by Stoning

At a time when much of the world is accepting LGBTQ individuals and relationships, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction in the small nation of Brunei.  Earlier this month, Brunei put into force a new set of harsh criminal provisions mandating extreme physical punishment for certain acts forbidden by Islamic law, most notably that any individual found guilty of a homosexual act will now be punished with death by stoning.

The new criminal provisions were originally announced by Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in 2014.  Bolkiah has led Brunei since 1967 and is one of the wealthiest people in the world due to Brunei’s oil exports.  In December 2018, Brunei’s Attorney General released a notification that the laws would be put into force beginning in April 2019.

The new laws also require the death penalty for adultery, abortion, and certain forms of blasphemy against the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad.  The law additionally requires amputation of limbs for stealing and 40 lashes for lesbian intercourse.  Children that have reached puberty are treated as adults under the law, while children older than seven may be punished by whipping.

Many members of the LGBTQ community already have fled Brunei fearing persecution.  Meanwhile, governments and NGOs around the world have urged Brunei to reverse its new mandate.  Human Rights Watch described the laws as “barbaric to the core” and against international law.  The United States Department of State released a statement that the new code “runs counter to [Brunei’s] international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”  Despite the opposition, Brunei officials thus far have stated that Brunei will keep the laws in place.

Brunei joins nine other countries[1] that penalize homosexuality with the death penalty.  At a time when multinational companies are making increasing efforts to promote global diversity, Brunei exemplifies the special challenges posed in understanding and working with a variety of legal requirements, as well as cultural values and perspectives.

[1] Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

© 2019 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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Erika C Collins, Labor, Employment, Attorney, Proskauer Rose, LAw Firm
Partner

Erika Collins is a Partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the International Labor & Employment Law Group, resident in the New York office. Erika advises and counsels multinational public and private companies on a wide range of cross-border employment and human resources matters throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.

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Daniel Ornstein, Litigation Attorney, Proskauer Law FIrm
Partner

Dan Ornstein leads our London labor and employment team and is a co-head of our International Labor & Employment Group. He has over 15 years of experience dealing with a broad range of UK and international employment issues. Dan is a go-to advisor for clients who rely on his sophisticated advice both on day-to-day matters and high-stakes situations. Dan is ranked in Chambers UK, which describes him as "incredibly analytical", "incredibly intelligent and an excellent sounding board” and someone who “displays both empathy and an assured knowledge of the best way to treat cases." He is also recognized in Legal 500 UK and International Who's Who of Management Labour & Employment Lawyers.

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Jordan Glassberg is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Prior to joining Proskauer, Jordan clerked for the Honorable William H. Pauley III in the Southern District of New York. 

Before clerking, Jordan graduated from Duke Law School, where he was managing editor of the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy and a member of Duke’s Moot Court and Mock Trial Boards. While at Duke, Jordan received the Labor and Employment Law Award for the Class of 2017, won the Hardt Cup 1L Moot Court Tournament and...

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