Actor and philanthropist George Clooney is calling for a boycott of nine hotels linked to the small country of Brunei.
He spoke out after news broke that the country was planning to enact a severe form of Sharia law on April 3, which would result in serious punishments, including the death penalty, for a range of actions.
Nine luxury hotels throughout Europe and the United States are connected to the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah. Clooney wrote in an op-ed for Deadline that continuing to visit these properties would be tantamount to legitimizing human rights abuses.
“Let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery,” he wrote. “Are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?”
Take Action: Demand Leaders Create a World Where She Is Equal
The anticipated law calls for Muslims who engage in same-sex relations and adultery to be stoned to death, and anyone, including tourists, who engage in anal sex to be stoned as well. The new law would also criminalize lesbian sex for the first time, punish crossdressing with whippings, and calls for people who steal to have their limbs amputated.
“This law is quite extreme,” Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, told Global Citizen. “It criminalizes transgender people for just existing. It’s really sex that’s being criminalized. It’s not a specific group of people, although obviously gay people will be targeted.
“We’ve pretty much seen historically that whenever extramarital relations are punished, it’s usually women who bear the brunt of this,” she added.
Brunei has long criminalized homosexuality, and gay people can be sentenced to 10 years in prison under the current law.
The small country of around 430,000 had tried to enact the death penalty and other harsh penalties for various actions in 2014, but international outrage helped to squash the effort. Now the country is trying to quietly put the new laws on the books, according to human rights groups.
Ghoshal said that Brunei may have decided that it would face less backlash this time around due to changing global politics.
“They may go ahead with it partly because there’s a feeling that the international community isn’t watching and there are certain trends globally where they’re not likely to get the negative response from global powers that they would have five years ago,” she said.
“If Brunei doesn’t bear any consequences for this decision, then i think there is risk that other countries would consider harsher laws,” she added.
“Whenever there’s progress, there’s also backlash,” she said. “We’ve seen a few countries that have put in place new laws where no such laws had ever existed and there are countries where laws are being enforced in a much more aggressive way.”
She pointed to Chad, which criminalized homosexuality in recent years, and Nigeria, which increased punishments for LGBTQ people. In countries such as Chechnya, Egypt, and Tanzania, violent crackdowns against LGBTQ people are taking place.
More broadly, LGBTQ people face discrimination, harassment, violence, arbitrary imprisonment, and torture all around the world.
Clooney’s call to boycott properties linked to Brunei may once again deter the country from enacting violently xenophobic laws. If nothing else, he wrote, people shouldn’t help fund a regime that murders innocent people.
“Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?” Clooney wrote in his op-ed. “I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”