Why We Can’t Support Hotels Owned by the Sultan of Brunei

Much of Hollywood’s money goes to the Beverly Hills Hotel as it’s a popular spot for conferences, galas, award ceremonies and fundraisers. However, the tony hotel is part of the Dorchester Collection, a hotel group owned by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, dictator of the Southeast Asian nation, Brunei. It has recently come to light that the sultan is implementing a Taliban-like penal code in the industrialized, oil-rich country, which would unleash a slew of draconian punishments on the citizens of Brunei.

The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) had planned to hold its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay and Mavis Leno, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but now it has canceled in protest. Instead, the awards event will be held on the evening of May 5 at the Hammer Museum in the Westwood area of Los Angeles. In addition, FMF has joined with gay and lesbian and women’s rights groups to protest this gross violation of human rights at a noon rally on May 5, across from the street from the hotel in a park on Sunset Boulevard.

“We cannot hold a human rights and women’s rights event at a hotel whose owner would institute a penal code that fundamentally violates women’s rights and human rights,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation (and publisher of Ms.).

One of the most disquieting of the new codes calls for gay men and lesbians and people convicted of adultery to be stoned to death. Another permits the public flogging of women who have abortions, and a third would jail women who become pregnant outside of marriage.

“Kill-a-gay’ laws, or laws that allow the flogging of women for abortion, violate international law and have no place in civilized society,” say Feminist Majority Foundation board member Mavis Leno.

The laws will be introduced in three phases over the course of three years. Phase one will punish certain offenses with hefty fines or prison time, phase 2 will add such punishments as amputations and floggings for other crimes and the third phase will include crimes punishable by stoning to death.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said it had “deep concern” about the proposed new laws and the ramifications it would hold for human rights in Brunei.

“The United Nations must condemn the government of Brunei’s plans and explore additional options, including sanctions, if Brunei fails to rescind this decree,” added Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms. and the event director.

FMF and Ms. are launching a petition drive calling on the government of Brunei to immediately rescind the new code and asking the United Nations to take action if these laws go into effect. Please sign the petition here, or send a letter to the government of Brunei here. Also join the conversation on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #StopTheSultan.

 Photo courtesy of VARNISHDesign via Creative Commons 2.0.