British university revokes Sultan of Brunei´s honourary degree

British university revokes Sultan of Brunei´s honourary degree over anti-gay laws
3 min read
17 April, 2019
The University of Aberdeen revoked the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree in protest against his recent implementation of severe anti-LGBT laws, including stoning.

The Sultan was awarded the honorary degree in 1995 [Getty]
The Sultan of Brunei has lost his honourary degree from the University of Aberdeen this week, in protest against his recently imposed severe anti-LGBT laws.

The Sultan’s implementation of new Islamic criminal laws are contrary to the institution’s “strong commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion,” University of Aberdeen principal George Boyne said.

The honorary degree, which was awarded to the Sultan in 1995 was revoked after a vote by the institution’s academic body.

The degree was given “at a time when the university had operated a successful exchange programme with its counterpart in Brunei, and when the sultan had encouraged links between Brunei and Aberdeen due to his interest in our geology and petroleum engineering research,” Professor Boyne said.

“In light of recent developments, the university undertook a review of how this award now fits with our values.

“Today I can inform you that the honorary degree has been revoked following a vote by senate, our academic body, which approved a recommendation from our honorary degrees committee,” he added.

The tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical Borneo island - ruled by the all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah - fully came into force following years of delays. The new penal code prescribes death by stoning for adultery and gay sex.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticised Brunei's implementation of new Islamic sharia laws as a clear violation of human rights.

Guterres "believes that human rights are to be upheld in relations to every person everywhere without any kind of discrimination," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"The legislation approved is in clear violation with the principles expressed.”

Guterres remarks came amid a storm of global criticism from politicians, celebrities and rights groups.

George Clooney's call to boycott nine hotels owned by Brunei in Europe and the United States, followed by Elton John on Monday, has catapulted the issue into the international headlines.

The new code stipulates death by stoning as a punishment for sex between men, while women convicted of having sexual relations with other women face up to 40 strokes of the cane or a maximum 10-year jail term.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei but has now become a capital offence. The law only applies to Muslims.

Brunei is an absolute monarchy which has been ruled for 51 years by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. 

Bolkiah - who is one of the world's wealthiest men and lives in a vast, golden-domed palace - announced plans for the code in 2013.

The first section was introduced in 2014 and included less stringent penalties, such as fines or jail terms for offences including indecent behaviour or skipping Friday prayers.

The laws, which also include amputation of hands and feet for stealing, make Brunei the first place in East or Southeast Asia to have a sharia penal code at the national level, joining several mostly Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia.

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