A British same sex couple was told to act straight or suffer the consequences.
That’s the state of affairs when planes have to stopover in Brunei after the country’s new laws punish homosexuality and adultery with the death penalty. Lesbian sex carries 40 strokes of the cane as well as jail-time.
Among other new laws introduced last month, sodomy, adultery and rape are now punishable by death-by-stoning in the Nation of Brunei, a country located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
When the couple found out about the proposed laws, they contacted Smartraveller for advice.
They were allegedly told that “so long as you act heterosexual, you should be fine.”
Were they willing to take that risk? Would you? When asked about the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) response, a spokesperson told Travel Weekly: “We respect the privacy of our consular clients, and encourage the complainant to share their concerns directly with the department.”
No further comment was issued, but Smartraveller has since updated its travel advice for LGBTI travellers travelling overseas, with links to country-specific travel advisories and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
Brunei’s harsh laws have caused quite a ruckus in the travel industry, with Virgin ending its staff leisure travel agreement with Brunei’s national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines.
“Given the harsh (including death) penalties being introduced for activity that is legal and acceptable in Australia, the myID agreement between Virgin Australia and Royal Brunei has now been terminated effective immediately,” stated an email sent to Virgin staff.
The agreement covered employee leisure travel benefits only, and Virgin does not sell seats on Royal Brunei.
“Under a separate interline ticketing agreement, Royal Brunei sells seats available on Virgin Australia aircraft for select routes within Australia,” the spokesperson said.
“There is no change to this particular agreement.”
Princess Cruises has called off two port visits.
“Princess Cruises is aware of the news stories circulating about the country of Brunei and the discriminatory views of the country leader towards the LGBTQ community,” stated the the cruise line.
“Although we have no calls to Brunei in 2019, we are looking at one itinerary in May 2020 and another in January 2021 that currently include a port call to Brunei, with the intention to make changes to those itineraries.
“At Princess Cruises we celebrate diversity and equality and would avoid any location where any guests are not treated with dignity and respect,” said a Princess Cruises’ spokesperson.
Global travel agency STA Travel has also stopped selling Royal Brunei Airlines’ flights worldwide. Flight Centre also said it “vehemently opposes” Brunei’s move.
You may have also heard Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John and George Clooney calling for a boycott of all hotels owned by Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s investment company. As a result, many luxury hotels, across the US and Europe, including legacy institutions such as Beverly Hills Hotel and London’s The Dorchester in Paris’ Plaza Athenee, have had to shut down their social media channels.
Tomorrow, the country of #Brunei will start stoning gay people to death. We need to do something now. Please boycott these hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Raise your voices now. Spread the word. Rise up. pic.twitter.com/24KJsemPGH
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 2, 2019
United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has condemned Brunei’s proposal, describing the revisions as “draconian”, maintaining that they “would enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach international human rights law”.
The Federal Government has been called on to ban Royal Brunei from Australia.
“This is an issue which the government … have taken up with the government of Brunei. We are strong supporters of human rights right across this region and more broadly, including in Brunei,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne.
“We are absolute opponents of the death penalty in all circumstances, so any suggestion that laws would facilitate the application of the death penalty is a matter of concern to Australia.”
“These are communications we will continue to have with our counterparts. I conveyed our views as recently, again, as last week to Erywan, to the Foreign Minister of Brunei, and we will continue to do so. They are matters of some human rights concern.”
Brunei is not the only country in the world where same sex relationships are punishable by death. There are many countries that also outlaw lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, including tourists.
The death penalty applies for homosexuality in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania (only Muslim men), Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar (only Muslims), Somalia and Brunei. In dozens of others, homosexuality can result in jail time.
However, Brunei is the only country in the world with execution laws in place for LGBTIQ people that maintains landing rights in Australia.
A Smartraveller spokesperson told YourLifeChoices that anyone travelling on a Royal Brunei flight is subject to the laws of Brunei and could be transported to Brunei to be dealt with under that nation’s laws.
Without knowing about these new laws, Brunei would seem to be the perfect destination.
One look at the latest Brunei Tourism video and you’d be forgiven for booking a ticket there. Just make sure you act straight.