Will Brunei’s Anti-LGBT Laws Impact Liberalism in Southeast Asia?

Will Brunei’s Anti-LGBT Laws Impact Liberalism in Southeast Asia? 

In present world, where human rights organizations are pushing governments to provide equal opportunities to the LGBT community, Brunei has come under a spotlight for introducing certain anti-LGBT laws.

The government on Wednesday introduced various Islamic laws in written, which are considered a violation of human rights across the globe. Immense fear was generated in the minds of people within the country, as the implementation of the anti-LGBT Sharia laws was announced. The laws states death penalty for an affair or any intimate relations between two men, lashes for lesbian sex, and amputation for crimes like theft.

Around 67 per cent of the Brunei’s population follows Islam, which brings a powerful force and more support to the Islamic values. With the introduction of anti-LGBT laws, Brunei has become the first country in Southeast Asia to impose capital punishment for LGBT sex or adultery.

Although the neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have been scrutinising strict Islamic laws for years, neither the Indonesian President Joko Widodo nor the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad officially responded to the laws initiated in Brunei.

However, some of the conservative politicians in Indonesia and Malaysia have widely supported the laws made by the Brunei’s government.

Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, a member of Malaysian Islamic party, congratulated Brunei on his Facebook official page and wrote, “Congratulations to Brunei for their bravery and political will in implementing Sharia criminal law … upholding the Sharia is an obligation in ensuring Allah’s rights to maintain peace for humans.”

Similarly, another conservative Muslim leader in Indonesia claimed that the laws enacted by Brunei were for enacting religious freedom. On the other hand, the Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono raised his concern on the matter, highlighting that such laws might induce strict Islamic policies in other Southeast Asian countries as well.

He added, “Already there are more than 60 local regencies and three provinces with mandatory hijab regulations in Indonesia. More than 20 local areas have regulations criminalizing LGBT people.”

In her response to the laws made by the Brunei’s government, Malaysian LGBT rights campaigner anxiously claimed, “All these things are creating a lot of fear for people and a lot of uncertainty. What’s going to happen to our lives and our future?”

It seems that both Indonesia and Malaysia have seen a rise in conservative Islamic groups, which has also lead to an increase in official action against LGBT people. With Brunei’s launch of anti-LGBT laws, the conservative Muslims in both the countries might press their own governments for tougher legislations. Besides, it may also result in undue oppression of such groups, while averting the liberal efforts for equal opportunities.

Brunei’s latest laws on the LGBT community have created unnecessary problems in Southeast Asia. While the Human Rights agencies are putting efforts to create better liberal society for the community, one of the most developing regions of the world still struggles to come out of the shackles tied by religious orthodoxy. As they take a strong shape, the laws have already created an aura of fear amongst such communities in the region.

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