Shell oil company urged to push for LGBT rights in Brunei

Royal Dutch Shell, which owns and operates Shell petrol stations globally, is being urged to use its influence in Brunei to improve the lives of LGBT+ people affected by a new law that punishes gay sex with death by stoning.

Shell owns 50 percent of Brunei Shell Petroleum, which reportedly accounts for 90 percent of the country’s oil and gas profits. The other 50 percent is owned by the controversial Brunei government, led by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah.

The Financial Times reports that Eumedion, a Dutch corporate governance and sustainability group, which counts several Shell shareholders among its ranks, will push for Shell to intervene in Brunei as early as next week.

BlackRock, Standard Life Aberdeen and Capital Group are all shareholders in Shell and part of Eumedion, reports FT.

Members of Eumedion are expected to raise the issue of Brunei’s anti-LGBT+ laws when they meet with Shell chief executive Ben Van Beurden.

Eumedion told the FT “it is expected from the company that they live up to their policies on inclusion and LGBT-equality, wherever they have operations.”

Shell told the publication: “Our core value of respect for people means that we respect all people, irrespective of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation and all the things that make people different.”

Shell’s commitment to LGBT equality

Shell is recognised as a top LGBT+ employer by the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. The oil firm scored a perfect score of 100 for being an inclusive workplace in both 2018 and 2019.

Shell’s own website touts its approach to LGBT+ equality in the workforce. A page about LGBT+ talent reads: “At Shell, we support and enable remarkable people from every background, and strive to be a pioneer of LGBT inclusion in the workplace.”

The Sultan of Brunei, who introduced death by stoning for gay people earlier this month

The Sultan of Brunei, who introduced death by stoning for gay people earlier this month (AFP/Getty)

Brunei invokes death penalty for gay sex

Brunei completed its implementation of strict sharia law in April, making gay sex and adultery punishable by death by stoning. Lesbian sex is punished by whipping.

Celebrities including George Clooney and Elton John have boycotted Brunei-owned hotels including The Dorchester in London.

Brunei defended its harsh punishments in a letter to the European Union, saying “there appears to be a misconception” about the penal code.

The letter said: “The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims, particularly women.

“The offences, therefore will not apply to non-Muslims unless the act of adultery or sodomy is committed with a Muslim.”

It added that the death penalty has an “extremely high evidentiary threshold (…) to the extent that convictions may solely rest on confessions of the offender.”