Man charged with Brunei’s first ‘gay crime’ since introduction of Sharia law


The first person in Brunei to be charged with a ‘gay crime’ since the country introduced Sharia law last year is now on trial for allegedly hiring men for sexual services.

In March 2019, the strongly conservative Muslim country announced that it would be changing its penal code to introduce death by stoning for men who have sex with men, while lesbian sex would be punished by 100 lashes of a whip.

An international outcry followed as LGBT+ activists and celebrities, including George Clooney, Billie Jean King, and Ellen DeGeneres, came out in condemnation of Brunei.

With Bruneian hotels being boycotted and the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degrees revoked, the east Asian country eventually backtracked and agreed that the death penalty would not be enforced, although homosexuality remains highly illegal.

The Sultan will now be forced to make good on this promise as the Borneo Bulletin reports that a local Malay man, Md As-Shaliheen bin Abdul Quddus Ong, is on trial for allegedly obtaining sexual services from two men in return for money.

Protesters gathered outside the luxury Dorchester hotel in London, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei (Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty)

The defendant is accused of not paying either of the men, stealing clothing from the first victim on 18 December and stealing clothing and a Samsung S6 phone from the second victim on 25 December.

Bin Abdul Quddus Ong risks a jail term of three years, a fine, or both for each of the theft charges. As he is being tried in a Magistrate’s court, not the Sharia court, the death sentence cannot be imposed – but if the case is moved to a higher court this could change.

Regardless, homosexuality remains a punishable offence and the defendant could face a year’s imprisonment for each of the sexual charges and a fine ranging between BND 1,000 and BND 5,000. Every subsequent conviction is punished with a three-year jail term and an increased fine.

The case was adjourned to January 8.