December 4, 2015 at 11:00 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S., Bruneian officials ‘discuss’ anti-gay penal code

Tom Malinowski, State Department, gay news Washington Blade

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and LaborTom Malinowski is among the U.S. officials who met with Bruneian government representatives in London on Nov. 30, 2015. (Photo courtesy of State Department)

U.S. officials during a meeting with Bruneian government representatives this week raised the sultanate’s new penal code that contains a death penalty provision for those convicted of sodomy.

U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Craig Allen; Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel and Special U.S. Representative to Muslim Communities Shaarik Zafar are among those who attended the meeting that took place in London on Nov. 30.

Anna Richey-Allen, a spokesperson for the State Department’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, told the Washington Blade that Malinowski “did discuss” the penal code, which is based on Sharia law.

“We discussed human rights with Bruneian officials who emphasized that Bruneian law would be implemented in accordance with international human rights standards,” said Richey-Allen.

The new penal code, which includes the criminalization of apostasy, began to take effect in May 2014. It remains unclear whether the provision that calls for the stoning to death of those convicted of sodomy has yet to come into force.

The State Department has previously expressed “serious concerns” over the penal code.

The Gill Action Fund in 2014 cancelled a conference that had been scheduled to take place at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which Bruneian Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah owns, in response to the anti-gay provision. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres and Richard Branson are among the celebrities who joined a boycott of the property and other hotels the sultanate’s government owns and operates through the Dorchester Collection.

“In our discussions about human rights, we routinely raise concerns about the Brunei Sharia Penal Code,” Richey-Allen told the Blade.

“We support the protection of human rights for all persons, including LGBTI persons, in our engagements with foreign countries,” she added. “We are working around the world to address laws that criminalize consensual same sex conduct between adults. People should not be punished because of who they are or who they love.”

Brunei is an oil-rich country on the island of Borneo in which slightly more than 400,000 people live.

The sultanate is among the countries that would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade agreement that includes the U.S. Pride at Work is among the organizations that has sharply criticized TPP because it does not include any LGBT-specific provisions.

Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, sharia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

The Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah has come under criticism for a new penal code that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of committing sodomy. (Photo by the Presidential Press and Information Office of kremlin.ru; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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