Brunei backs away from death penalty for gay sex, adultery

The United Nations has called the laws implemented April 3 “draconian” while the U.S. and several other countries have urged Brunei to halt its plans. Celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have rallied for a boycott of nine hotels in the U.S. and Europe linked to Brunei.

Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable in Brunei by a jail term of up to 10 years. The new laws say those found guilty of gay sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offense and a left foot on their second. The new laws apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said Sunday in a speech to mark the start of Ramadan that he was aware of the “many questions and misperceptions” over the penalties provided for under new sections of Brunei’s Shariah Penal Code, but stressed that there should be no fear.