Brunei: Sultan Returns Oxford Degree After ‘Death by Stoning’ Backlash


Controversy-plagued Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, returned an honorary degree awarded by the United Kingdom’s (U.K.’s) famed Oxford University following global backlash after proposing the death penalty for gay sex and adultery.

“As part of the review process, the university wrote to notify the Sultan on 26 April 2019, asking for his views by 7 June 2019,” the university told Reuters.

“Through a letter dated 6 May 2019, the sultan replied with his decision to return the degree.”

More than 100,000 people had also reportedly signed a petition urging the university to rescind the honorary law degree which was conferred on the Sultan in 1993.

Oxford Member of Parliament Layla Moran had also requested that the university strip the Sultan of the degree.

“Oxford University now has a chance to redeem itself and move past being tied to such gross violations of human rights. I think it is best the university should undertake a thorough review of their honorary degree system to ensure a scandal like this doesn’t happen again.”

United Kingdom pop star and LGBT icon Elton John was among a slew of celebrities who led the charge against the Sultan of Brunei.

On April 3, the oil-rich southeast Asian country came under fire after rolling out laws that aimed to punish sodomy, adultery and rape with death, including by stoning.

The law was condemned by the United Nations and prompted rights groups and other activists to seek a boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan.

Several multinational companies have also banned staff using the Sultan’s hotel.

Earlier this month, Bolkiah buckled under pressure and said the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the penal code changes.

Homosexuality is illegal, in Brunei, and currently punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Other Asian countries, like Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore, also implemented bans on sexual relationships between men, while there has been an increase in harassment of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Indonesia.

The Sultan of Brunei is the world’s second-longest reigning monarch.

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