A bisexual man living in Brunei is speaking out about the country’s new penal code that punishes gay sex with death by stoning, which was signed into law by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah earlier this month.
The man, who identifies as a liberal Muslim and has been with his partner since 2018, spoke with the Washington Blade via WhatsApp from Bandar Seri Begawan, the Bruneian capital. He asked that his identity be kept secret, for obvious reasons.
“The reaction in general has been polarizing,” he explains. “There are those strongly opposed to it, and others in reverent support. But from what I see, those in support don’t seem to really know what they are supporting, at least not in a critical analytical sense.”
He continues, “I don’t think they are fully aware of the political, socio-cultural, and economic impacts these laws may present, or event worse, I don’t think they care. As they are blinded and feel they will be protected by God for being a more pious nation.”
The man describes the government’s decision to make homosexuality punishable by death “very rushed.”
“My reaction to the news is really just now of confusion,” he says, adding that he believes most of the country’s residents are unaware “of the bigger repercussions of the law.”
Brunei’s economy, he says, “is already on a downslide” and this certainly isn’t going to help matters.
The man also said that the government has yet used the penal code against anyone accused of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations and, for the most part, “behavior hasn’t changed since the whole thing started.”
“I try to live my life the most socially acceptable way that I can,” he adds. “It’s both worse and better than what people expect here, but again it’s still early to say.”
Still, his family has urged him and his partner to keep a low profile.
“We still go about our daily lives,” the man says, “but I don’t know how much that will change.”
Other reports of gay life in Brunei, which has a population of less than 500,000, say that LGBTQ people “lay low,” living in the closet, barely patronizing Brunei’s clandestine gay bars and refusing to discuss gay life in general.