Brunei, one of the richest countries in the world, can be found on the north coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia. After gaining independence from the UK in 1984, their wealth increased thanks to petroleum and natural gas fields. In 2014, the country began phasing in a strict new penal code, which included punishments for homosexuality. In April 2019, the complete code came in, which made homosexuality punishable by death. How can you help the Brunei LGBTQ community during this terrifying time? There are five ways:
#1: Pressure the United States to condemn the law
At the time of this writing, the United States has still not officially condemned the Brunei law. Multiple LGBTQ groups like GLAAD are demanding Mike Pompeo and the State Department take a stand, but when asked for a comment by the Daily Beast, all they would say is they were “concerned.” This is extremely disturbing and as a citizen, you need to lobby the government to condemn the law in the strongest words. Call, email, and text your state representatives and senators. Pester them incessantly until they take your concerns to the highest levels of government. When the powers that be ignore human rights violations, they believe the people won’t care. Show them that we do.
#2: Identify companies involved in Brunei and pressure them to drop their deals
As one of the world’s richest countries, Brunei doesn’t lack for companies and brands wanting to make deals with them. Money talks, and many even believe Brunei established the harsh penal code because of the economy. If companies boycotted the nation and made a big enough impact, it’s more likely that Brunei would revoke the laws. Already lots of companies have taken a stand. STA Travel, a global travel agency, will no longer sell flights on Royal Brunei Airlines. Another airline, Virgin Australia Airlines, also broke off a relationship with Royal Brunei Airlines that gave Virgin Australia staff discounted tickets.
On the other side of the issue, the University of Oxford refused to revoke a honorary degree given to Bolkiah, Brunei’s sultan. 47,000 people have signed a petition demanding the university change its mind. Identify other companies, organizations, and universities that are involved with Brunei and pressure them to break ties.
#3: Support orgs that offer asylum to LGBTQ individuals
Many LGBTQ people in Brunei see no other option but to flee. Even before this final phase of the law went into effect, many left their country for safer shores. Organizations that help with legal paperwork, finding work and a place to stay, and so on will need a lot of support in the coming months, whether it’s financially or through volunteering. Getting involved with an organization like The LGBT Asylum Project in San Francisco, which provides pro-bono legal representation, lets you affect change in a very tangible way. The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Immigration Law Project also provides assistance and holds the distinction of being the largest community-based provider of LGBT-focused legal services in the United States. Their work includes help with applications under the Convention Against Torture; prepping applications for employment; and mental health referrals.
#4: Join an LGBTQ or LGBTQ ally group
If you want to help with the situation in Brunei, you should join up with a group of people with the same passion. There’s power in numbers and together you can learn more about the specific issues facing the LGBTQ community in Brunei, as well as raise awareness and finances through events, fundraisers, and more. Since the Brunei laws are generating a lot of attention, it’s likely that an LGBTQ group will focus their resources on them, but many may have additional priorities. If you really want to direct your attention to Brunei, look for a group or organization that’s made the country their top concern.
#5: Support The Brunei Project
The Brunei Project (which is based in Australia) has been one of the most significant voices for the LGBTQ community in Brunei. Its founder, Matthew Woolfe, has spent years speaking out Brunei’s harsh laws and warning the global community about the final death-penalty phase of the code. Woolfe is currently banned from entering Brunei. The org’s projects have included organizing Brunei’s first event for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. As an independent initiative, The Brunei Project has no external funding and depends on relationships with other organizations and individuals. If you want to be sure your donations and attention are going exclusively to Brunei’s human rights at this time, this org is your best bet.