Regional Networks Concerned Brunei’s Law Affects Health of Sexual Minorities

Jakarta, Friday, 25 April 2014.- Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) and Islands of South East Asian Network on Male and Transgender Sexual Health (ISEAN) express their grave concern on the forthcoming implementation of Brunei Darussalam’s Revised Penal Code of 2013.

Parts of the code penalize a broad range of crimes with death by stoning (under hudud and qisas punishments). Punishable acts include sexual offenses such as rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations for Muslims. This text of the law was finalized on October 22, 2013, was expected to enter into force on April 22, 2014. However, the government of Brunei Darussalam delayed the law coming into effect.

Provisions in the Penal Code sparked concern from the ASEAN and the broader international community as it may open the floodgates for further human rights violations against women, children, and other people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Penalty by death sentence contravenes several international human rights laws. Further, death by stoning constitutes torture or other cruel, degrading and inhumane acts of punishment, thus a clear infringement of international humanitarian principles and universal human rights.

Correspondingly, Brunei Darussalam’s Penal Code 2013 significantly impacts the lives and sexual health of its citizens most vulnerable to HIV; men who have sex with men, transgender people and young people from key populations. Under this light, penalties directed to sexual relations between two consenting adults impede rights to health, privacy, confidentiality and equality before civil law.

APCOM and ISEAN, as regional and sub-regional networks, stand firm in calling for the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the rights of sexual minorities, particularly their rights to sexual health. According to Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of APCOM, “This law carries heavy and degrading penalties that create barriers towards enjoying right to sexual health especially in accessing preventive measures that will protect people from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. This law will further, if not lead, the discrimination against gay and transgender people.”

The enforcement of these laws the risk undermining government investments to strengthen universal health care for Brunei’s citizens over the years and could unravel any progress made by local organisations involved in Brunei’s HIV response. “There is an opportunity for the leadership of Brunei to work with local public health organisations to map out a way forward,” adds Laurindo Garcia, Network Coordinator for ISEAN, “we wish to show our support for local HIV organisations and health providers who will continue to engage with the government and other stakeholders in Brunei to resolve this issue. Our hope is that a local solution can be found so that the people of Brunei who are living with or most-affected by, HIV are able to access life-saving treatment, care, support and prevention without interrupt or fear of violence.”

APCOM is a regional network, which advocates issues that affect the lives of men who have sex with men and transgender people including HIV, rights, health and well being.

ISEAN is a network of networks established with the view of sharing information among Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and promoting effective HIV responses for men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) and transgender people (TG). ISEAN is the first sub regional grouping of community representatives and organizations from Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Timor Leste.

(InR, AdS)