Oxford University refuses to strip Sultan of Brunei’s degree over gay death penalty law

Commonwealth: Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah

Oxford University has ignored calls from its student union to strip the Sultan of Brunei of his honorary degree over the country’s implementation of sharia law, which makes gay sex punishable by death by stoning.

The world-leading institution refused to rescind the accolade despite two other universities—King’s College London and the University of Aberdeen—confirming to PinkNews that they will review honorary degrees awarded to the Bruneian ruler in light of the country’s draconian legislation, which came into force on Wednesday (April 3).

Oxford University awarded Brunei sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled over the country both as head of state and prime minister since 1967, an honorary degree of civil law by diploma in 1993.

“All honorary doctorates should reflect the ethos of the University.”

—VP of Welfare and Equal Opportunity at Oxford University, Student Union

But the institute has come under pressure from its official student body to take back the academic honour.

Speaking to PinkNews, Ellie Macdonald, vice-president of welfare and equal opportunity at Oxford University Student Union, said: “All honorary doctorates should reflect the ethos of the University.

“We want to create a safe and inclusive society for all and the people who receive this type of honour should be held to a high standard.

“If they fail to meet that, as in this case, they should be stripped of their honour.”

Oxford University

Pembroke College. (Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The top university, however, has refused to strip the sultan of the honorary degree.

“At present, the University will not be rescinding the Sultan of Brunei’s 1993 Honorary Degree of Civil Law by Diploma,” a University of Oxford spokesperson told PinkNews.

“We share the international condemnation of Brunei’s new penal code and back the United Nations’ call to stop the code entering into force.”

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