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Brunei Will Now Punish Gay Sex With Death By Stoning

A new law in Brunei set to go into effect on April 3 will allow gay sex and adultery to be punished by public stonings. The law is part of the country’s Sharia Penal Code, which was first announced in 2013 by Brunei’s sultan, who has full executive control over the country and who has […]

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  • A new law in Brunei set to go into effect on April 3 will allow gay sex and adultery to be punished by public stonings.
  • The law is part of the country’s Sharia Penal Code, which was first announced in 2013 by Brunei’s sultan, who has full executive control over the country and who has been increasingly mandating severe laws under Islamic rule.
  • The Penal Code will allow theft to be punished by amputation.

Brunei’s New Law

Brunei is facing backlash over a new law that will begin punishing gay sex and adultery by stoning people to death in public.

The law, which becomes effective on April 3, comes as part of the country’s new Sharia Penal Code, which also includes a provision allowing amputation as a punishment for theft.

While Sharia law is an Islamic legal system, the Penal Code applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims, though Muslims make up about two-thirds of Brunei’s population, which is approximately 430,000 people.

The law also applies to children and foreigners.

Amnesty International criticized the law and called on Brunei to stop their plans to implement it.

“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations.” Amnesty International’s Brunei Researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said in a press release, “The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”

Chhoa-Howard also stated that “Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”

Sharia Penal Code

The new Penal Code was first announced in 2013 by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, with the intention of bolstering the influence of Islam in the country.

The Sultan has full executive power over Brunei and has held the throne since 1967. He is one of the richest leaders in the world with a personal wealth of about $20 billion, thanks to Brunei’s oil wealth.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Source: Wikipedia

Bolkiah received a wide array of global criticism when he first started the gradual implementation of the Penal Code in 2014.

Amnesty International released a statement criticizing the Penal Code as “a dangerous step backwards for human rights.”

Many people called for boycotts and divestment from some of the country’s sovereign wealth fund investments, including the upscale Beverly Hills Hotel, which attracted protests and celebrity boycotts.

The international outrage did delay the sultan from carrying out the most extreme provisions of the law.

However, now the country appears to be going ahead with the more severe measures, and they are doing so very quietly.

Back in December, Brunei’s attorney general released an announcement stating that the law was to go into effect. This was done so covertly that news organizations did not even pick up on it until recently.

Brunei’s History of Human Rights Abuses

While this new law certainly represents a dramatic and violent change, it is not entirely out of line with Brunei’s legal system historically.

Brunei was a British colony until 1984, and homosexuality has been illegal in the country since colonial rule. However, homosexuality was previously punished with prison time, not death.

Over the last few years, Brunei has become increasingly more conservative in its practice of Islamic rule than its Muslim-majority neighbors, like Indonesia and Malaysia.

Source: Google Maps

For example, Brunei has banned the sale of alcohol. Pregnancy out of wedlock or failing to pray on Friday are also punishable by fines or jail time.

While Brunei is one example of an extreme, they are by no means alone in these kinds of violent practices towards gay people.

According to a 2019 report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, consensual same-sex acts are still criminalized in 70 U.N. member nations. Additionally, gay sex-acts can be punished by death in at least 10 nations, not including Brunei.

Trump Administration’s Efforts

Back in February, the Trump Administration announced that it was launching a global campaign to push countries to decriminalize homosexuality.

The announcement was met with reports that argued the effort may have been inspired by the public hanging of a 31-year-old man in Iran who was killed on charges under the country’s anti-gay laws.

Many criticized the announcement as a political ploy to disparage Iran, while others condemned Trump’s record on LGBTQ rights.

Trump for his part seemed to not know about the effort when asked about it in a separate press conference following the announcement. It is also still unclear exactly what the the administration plans on doing to decriminalize homosexuality.

See what others are saying: (Amnesty International) (The Guadian) (The New York Times)

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Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse

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The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.


Priest Sparks Outrage

Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.

Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.

To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.

Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.

“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”

In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.

Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”

Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.

Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims

Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.

According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.

Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.

The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.

While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”

With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.

The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.

See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)

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Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases

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Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.


Cases Going Up

The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.

On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.

At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.

Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.

Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.

Doubts About Government Response

The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”

However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.

“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.

He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.

Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)

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First Person Charged Under Hong Kong National Security Law Found Guilty of Terrorism and Inciting Secession

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Dozens more are awaiting trial for breaking the controversial National Security Law, which is aimed at protecting Chinese sovereignty at the cost of basic freedoms within Hong Kong.


First Conviction Under National Security Law

The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s extremely controversial National Security Law was found guilty of his crimes Tuesday morning.

A judge ruled that Tong Ying-kit was guilty of both terrorism and inciting secession after the 24-year-old failed to stop at a police checkpoint while on his motorcycle last July, which resulted in him eventually riding into police. At the same time, he was carrying a flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”

According to Justice Esther Toh, that phrase alone was capable of inciting others to commit succession, she also that added that Tong understood that the flag had secessionist meaning in an effort to set aside doubts that Tong understood the flag’s inherent meaning.

Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director said,“The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong.”

“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.

More Convictions Expected Sparking Fear Over Erosion of Rights

A long string of convictions will likely follow Tong’s, as over 100 people have been arrested under the ambiguous law that criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Of those arrested, 60 are currently awaiting trial, including dozens of pro-democracy politicians who have been accused of subversiveness for their calls to block the government’s agenda in the legislature.

That has drawn particular concern among international critics who fear the precedent that will be set once it’s clear to politicians that failing to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s agenda will result in prison terms.

It’s widely expected that as more people are found guilty, the few remaining protections of the city’s Basic Law, a British common law-inspired mini-constitution, will be completely eroded.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)

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