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Fear prevails in Brunei, transgender gay seeks refuge in Canada

Devdiscourse News Desk bandar seri begawan Brunei Darussalam
Updated: 17-04-2019 16:41 IST
Fear prevails in Brunei, transgender gay seeks refuge in Canada

Zayce said she just does not feel safe with her family and claims that she knew since childhood that she was a transgender. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fearing recently enforced draconian Islamic law in Brunei that awards death punishment with stoning for sodomy, a 19-year-old transgender woman from Brunei has sought refuge in Canada. It is pertinent to mention that after pressure from the human rights activists the government has clarified that the law would only be a deterrent to protect the sanctity of Muslim marriage and families.

Zoella Zayce says she never told her family about her 'identity' as they were conservative. Zayce revealed that her family. She ignored the question about her sexual identity from her friends and family members. However, now with the new penal code in place in Brunei, its an alarming question. The new Islamic laws punish homosexuality, adultery and rape with the brutal Islamic death penalty in which the accused is stoned till death.

Zayce said she just does not feel safe with her family and claims that she knew since childhood that she was a transgender. In 2014, she heard about two people fined and jailed for cross-dressing. "I knew I had to leave very soon." Zayce left for Canada in 2018 and is waiting for her asylum application. She chose Canada because it was far from Brunei. She also reveals that it would be too expensive for her family or the authorities to come after her. Canada has the reputation of being an 'open society' with strong protections for human rights. "The Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was very accepting of people fleeing their countries so that was one of the major reasons as well." Zayce supports herself by working full

On April 12, the Kingdom's second minister of foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof said the new laws were focused more on 'prevention than punishment'. In a letter to the UN, the minister said its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture than to punish. The offences do not apply to non-Muslims in Brunei, which has been at the centre of a media storm since it announced the new laws.

"The criminalization of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims particularly women," the minister said. However, the UN General-Secretary Antonio Guterres said human rights are to be upheld in relation to every person everywhere without any kind of discrimination. "The legislation approved is in clear violation with the principles expressed."

Homesexuality was already illegal in a monarchy ruled Bruei ruled for 51 years by Sultan Hassanal Boliah. The new penal code has a provision for capital punishment under which the culprits could be stonned to death. This law applies only to Muslims.

Homosexuality is already illegal in the sultanate, but it will now become a capital offence. The law applies only to Muslims however some provisions are also applied to non-muslims as well. Brunei government has recently released a statement to implment the law from Wednesday. "Brunei Darussalam has always been practising a dual legal system, one that is based on the Syariah Law and the other on Common Law," said the statement. It further added, "The Syariah Law, apart from criminalizing and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, it also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race,". The human right activists and gay rights activists have been oppositing the draconian law.

Almost all the Muslim countries follow draconian Islamic laws in one form or the other including cutting organs of a theft accused, stoning to death, for sodomy and death for criticism of the prophet Mohammed.

COUNTRY : Brunei Darussalam