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Sultan of Brunei returns Oxford degree after backlash over anti-gay laws

The oil-rich south-east Asian state sparked an outcry when it proposed the death penalty for gay sex and adultery

Nearly 120,000 people had signed a petition by April calling on Oxford University to rescind the honorary law degree awarded in 1993 to Hassanal Bolkiah, the worlds second-longest reigning monarch and prime minister of the oil-rich country.

Nearly 120,000 people had signed a petition by April calling on Oxford University to rescind the honorary law degree awarded in 1993 to the sultan, the worlds second-longest reigning monarch and prime minister of the oil-rich country.

Read more Oxford University said the sultan had decided to hand back the honorary degree on 6 May, while it was reviewing the award.

Socially conservative attitudes prevail across Asia where Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore ban sexual relationships between men, and Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people recently.

As part of the review process, the university wrote to notify the sultan on 26 April 2019, asking for his views by 7 June 2019, the university said in an emailed statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Brunei, a former British protectorate of about 400,000 people nestled between two Malaysian states on Borneo island, was the first country in the region to adopt the criminal component of sharia at a national level in 2014.

The small south-east Asian country sparked an outcry when it rolled out its interpretation of Islamic laws on 3 April, punishing sodomy, adultery and rape with death, including by stoning.

The law, which the United Nations condemned, had prompted celebrities and rights groups to seek a boycott on hotels owned by the sultan, including the Dorchester in London and the Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

Read more Seeking to temper the backlash, the sultan earlier this month said the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the penal code changes.

The law, which the United Nations condemned, had prompted celebrities and rights groups to seek a boycott on hotels owned by the sultan, including the Dorchester in London and the Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

The small Southeast Asian country sparked an outcry when it rolled out its interpretation of Islamic laws on April 3, punishing sodomy, adultery and rape with death, including by stoning.

Several multinational companies have since banned staff from using the sultans hotels, while some travel companies have stopped promoting Brunei as a tourist destination.

Socially conservative attitudes prevail across Asia where Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore ban sexual relationships between men, and Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people recently.

Seeking to temper the backlash, the sultan earlier this month said the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the penal code changes.

Brunei, a former British protectorate of about 400,000 people nestled between two Malaysian states on Borneo island, was the first country in the region to adopt the criminal component of sharia at a national level in 2014.

Oxford University said the sultan had decided to hand back the honorary degree on May 6, while it was reviewing its decision to award it.

Home UK World Politics US Ocean Rescue Science & Tech Business Ents & Arts Offbeat Analysis Opinion Sky Views Videos Weather Watch Live Sultan of Brunei returns Oxford degree after backlash to anti-gay laws Nearly 120,000 people had signed a petition calling on Oxford University to take back the honorary degree awarded to the sultan. Fill 2 Copy 11 Created with Sketch. Friday 24 May 2019 12:47, UK

image/svg+xml Why you can trust Sky News The sultan of Brunei has returned an honorary degree awarded to him by Oxford University following a backlash to his proposal of the death penalty for gay sex and adultery.

Nearly 120,000 people have signed a petition calling on the university to rescind the honorary law degree awarded to Hassanal Bolkiah in 1993.

Oxford University said on Thursday that the sultan had decided to hand back the degree earlier this month, while the decision to award it was under review.

A spokesman said: “As part of the review process, the university wrote to notify the sultan on 26 April 2019, asking for his views by 7 June 2019.

Celebrities George Clooney and Sir Elton John were among those who had spoken against Bruneis interpretation of Islamic laws, which would have seen sodomy, adultery and rape punishable by death – including by stoning.

A global outcry included condemnation from the United Nations and several companies banned staff using hotels owned by the sultan. Some travel companies also stopped promoting Brunei to tourists.

The sultan – the worlds second-longest reigning monarch – has since stepped back slightly to say the death penalty will not be imposed.

Oil-rich Brunei is a former British protectorate with a population of about 400,000. It sits between two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo.

It was the first country in the region to adopt the criminal component of sharia at a national level in 2014.

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