Some of you have probably heard about a few preemptive celebrity boycotts because of Brunei's new anti-gay law. It was passed but then put on hold for several weeks while the Sultan thought it over. He announced today that the time for contemplation has ended and it will go into effect starting May 1st.
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As terrible as that title sounds, this isn't the same situation as Nigeria, Russia, and Uganda. Here's why. First, this isn't really a 'stone the gays' law. That's just the title the press picked because it sells. This is a 'stone everybody' law. It's aimed at a wide variety of people who break laws written by an ultra-conservative branch of the Muslim faith. It's what the U.S. would be if we allowed the Tea Party to rewrite the constitution. It targets rape (which in most Muslim countries means the victim is the one punished), adultery (where only the women are prosecuted), murder, blasphemy, and sodomy. That's where the gays come in.
Second, the government isn't planning to have militia driving around in trucks full of rocks stoning people this week. The law is going to be enforced in phases starting with fines and imprisonment. The final phase where death is the penalty won't happen for two more years. That gives us time to do something better than boycott and rant. We have the opportunity for diplomacy and finesse and when you're trying to change minds that is always the preferred method since nobody responds well to screaming.
What can you do now? Support the gay community in Brunei. Let them know we're out here and we're watching. Follow Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on FB and twitter. Boycott if it makes you feel better but only if you actually frequent the Dorchester Collection Hotel chain. Otherwise, it's a nice gesture but ultimately an empty one.
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