Brunei is a small and relatively wealthy country located in Southeast Asia, with Islam being the main religion. In October of 2013, Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah introduced plans of a new penal code. The code expressed of legally enacting whipping and stoning to death of people found guilty of homosexuality and related acts (Gant 2019). Despite the delay in execution of the law, in early April of 2019, its implementation was expressed.
International widespread condemnation followed the announcement, with the United Nations highlighting serious human rights violations. High profile celebrities such as George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres called for a boycott of hotels owned by the sultan of Brunei. Companies such as JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank called for their employees to avoid giving business to the hotels too.
Today, the world woke up to the news that Brunei will not be imposing the death penalty on those found to be engaging in homosexual acts. LGBT citizens can still face other penalties such as fines or jail time. However, the retraction of the death penalty imposition is certainly a step in the right direction.
This decision was clearly influenced by the international communities disapproval and responsive action. Although people in this day are disenfranchised, many still do have a voice. Social media platforms must be used to speak up in a good hearted and respectful matter on behalf of the voiceless. Had the international community not spoke up for the rights of the people of Brunei, there is a strong likelihood that retraction would not have occurred anytime soon, or ever.
I compare the value of our voice to the value of our right to vote. They are both vehicles of expression and power. I was stunned by the fact that 4/10 Americans in the 2016 presidential election, who were eligible to vote, did not vote (Pew Research Center 2018). Of course, a single vote or a single voice itself may possess minimal impact. However, the collective influence of accumulated voices and desires rising together is enormous. Such a privilege should be used wisely and never taken for granted.
Gant, J 2019, ‘Sultan of Brunei says he will NOT enforce the death penalty for gay sex after widespread backlash led by celebrities including Elton John and George Clooney’, Daily Mail, 5 May, viewed 6 May 2019, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html
Pew Research Center 2018, For Most Trump Voters, ‘Very Warm’, Feelings for Him Endured, Trust, Facts and Democracy, Washington, viewed 6 May 2019, https://www.people-press.org/2018/08/09/for-most-trump-voters-very-warm-feelings-for-him-endured/