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Uni reviews Sultan's honorary degree over gay stoning laws

The Sultan of Brunei's degree is being reviewed over his country's laws punishing gay sex.

Sultan of Brunei: Review of degree at University of Aberdeen.
Sultan of Brunei: Review of degree at University of Aberdeen. Wikimedia Commons by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei

An honorary degree bestowed on the Sultan of Brunei by a Scottish university is being reviewed after his country's laws punishing gay sex by stoning offenders to death provoked international outrage.

The University of Aberdeen said sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's LLD (Doctor of Laws), awarded in 1995, will be urgently raised with its honorary degrees committee.

Under the new Islamic criminal laws in Brunei, which apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim, those found guilty of gay sex could be stoned to death or whipped.

Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offence and a left foot on their second.

Celebrities including George Clooney, Sir Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have voiced opposition and called for a boycott of nine hotels with ties to the sultan.

Three of those listed are in the UK, and include The Dorchester, in London.

Social media users have asked Transport for London to remove advertising posters related to the country spotted in Underground stations.

A spokesman for the university said: "The University of Aberdeen is inclusive and open to all.

"In light of this new information this matter will be raised as a matter of urgency with the university's honorary degrees committee."

The penalties were provided for under new sections of Brunei's Shariah penal code.

Sultan Hassanal instituted the code in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the oil-rich monarchy of about 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim.

Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable in Brunei by a jail term of up to 10 years.

The first stage of the Shariah penal code included fines or jail for offences such as pregnancy out of wedlock or failing to pray on Fridays.

Leanne MacMillan, director of international campaigns at the LGBT charity Stonewall, said: "We continue to be extremely concerned by what's happening in Brunei.

"Stonewall, along with many other LGBT groups and human rights organisations, strongly condemn this alarming situation.

"Since the news broke last week, we've seen so many people and organisations from across the world speak out and voice their disgust.

"We are raising our concerns with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and will continue to stand in solidarity with LGBT people in Brunei."

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