Oxford University: 50,000 sign petition to remove Brunei sultan’s degree over gay death penalty

Commonwealth: Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah

A petition calling on the University of Oxford to rescind the Sultan of Brunei’s 1993 honorary degree, after the country imposed the death penalty for gay sex, has topped more than 50,000 signatures in less than 48 hours.

Brunei implemented the strict Islamic legal system of sharia law on Wednesday (April 3), making gay sex between men punishable with death by stoning and lesbian sex carrying a sentence of 40 whips of the cane or a 10 year jail sentence.

In response to the draconian legislation, two universities—King’s College London and the University of Aberdeen— have confirmed that they will review honorary degrees awarded to the Bruneian ruler Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled over the country both as head of state and prime minister since 1967.

However, as of Thursday afternoon (April 4), a spokesperson at the University of Oxford told PinkNews that, while it condemned Brunei’s new penal code, “at present, the university has not taken any decision on rescinding the Sultan of Brunei’s 1993 Honorary Degree of Civil Law by Diploma.”

The spokesperson previously said on Wednesday (April 3) that the university “will not be rescinding” the sultan’s honorary degree, before issuing an amendment to its initial statement.

Oxford students and alumni have been angered by the university’s response to the Southeast Asian country’s new laws, with the petition, which was set up on Wednesday and cites PinkNews’ original story, gaining over 50,000 signatures at the time of publication.

“Through refusing to rescind the Sultan’s Honorary Degree, the University of Oxford indicates that it is content for its name to be tied to human rights abuses and the persecution of LGBTQ+ people,” reads the petition.

“As a world renowned institution, the University should not be linked such legislation and must take a clear stance in opposition to the Sultan’s actions.”

Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society calls out “hypocrisy” of awarding sultan honorary degree

Oxford University’s LGBT+ student body has also been outraged by the lack of response from the world-leading institution.

In a statement sent to PinkNews, a spokesperson for the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society said: “We note with concern the University of Oxford’s refusal to revoke the honorary degree of laws it awarded to the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah.”

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