LGBT Rights: Brunei

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:08 pm on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 5:08 pm, 10th April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate Thangam Debbonaire on securing this debate and on her excellent speech.

It is a sad fact—and not one that is in the infamous guide to coming out—that when someone comes out, they look at the world map in a very different way. That is largely to find out whether the country that they are visiting on business or on holiday is going to arrest, torture or murder them just because of who they love or who they are. As we have heard, Brunei’s strict legal code mandates for death for adultery and sex between men, lashes for lesbian sex and amputation for crimes such as theft. It discriminates not just against LGBT people, but against women particularly

That has sparked a tide of condemnation. We in the SNP have unequivocally condemned Brunei’s actions. My hon. Friend Neil Gray spoke about the grassroots response, his constituent Sarah Quinn—a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament—and the number of signatures that her petition has gathered. At the weekend, we saw people outside some of the hotels owned by the sultan.

To my mind that is not enough, because until this shameful announcement, 70 countries criminalised same-sex activity between consenting adults. That accounts for almost 3 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population, living in countries that have anti-LGBT laws. Although, unfortunately, the shambles of Brexit is diminishing the UK’s soft power, it still has significant power and I know that the Minister has made strong statements of condemnation. However, he and the Government have also recently visited Brunei.

In August 2018 Paul Scully visited as trade envoy to Brunei, Thailand and Burma. He talked about what a successful visit it was, and about the great insight that it gave him into the significant opportunities that already exist within Brunei’s economy. I hope that the Minister can give us some comfort and a sense that he will use his power to make sure a strong message is sent. Whatever happens with Brexit the UK will be flailing around potentially looking for trade deals, and they cannot come at the cost of our values.