The University of Southampton’s Students’ Union is supporting a motion by LGBT+ Society member Daniel Harris for the renaming of Brunei House on Glen Eyre Halls after the Sultan of Brunei made gay sex punishable by death. Wessex Scene received confirmation in the afternoon of 12th April that the University is ‘reviewing the situation’.
In 2014 the small South-East Asian country announced its intention to implement Sharia law. Quietly announced on the Brunei Attorney-General’s website at the end of 2018, since 3rd April any individuals found guilty of adultery or gay men will be stoned to death, while gay women will be subject to 40 lashes. Other repressive laws have been introduced, including the punishment of amputation if found guilty of theft.
Brunei House was funded by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and his government and displays a plaque to commemorate this. In the statement signed by all 5 SUSU sabbatical officers it is stated that they ‘stand in solidarity with the LGBT+ community of Brunei’ and LGBT+ students, before adding:
On 12th April, Acting Union President and VP Sports Steve Gore confirmed on Facebook that the University Executive Board have responded to SUSU’s motion, stating they were considering it, but that the Students’ Union should be consulting Brunei students on what they think. In response to this, Steve Gore stated ‘that this is about inclusion, not exclusion, and that our message is for the Sultan who is passing these brutal laws rather than to our friends from Brunei’, before detailing a message from one Brunei student calling for the building’s renaming. To view his post in full, click here.
In light of recent events, we agree that it is unacceptable to name one of our student accommodations after a country that has enacted such policies.
We value our positive relationship with the University Residences team and will do what we can to have this building renamed.
Additionally, Wessex Scene contacted the University on the afternoon of Thursday 11th April for comment/indication of intended actions in the wake of SUSU’s lobbying. A response was received within 24 hours from a University spokesperson which confirmed that the situation was being reviewed but that discussions were ‘ongoing’.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has headed the Brunei royal family since 1967 and the country was a British protectorate until its independence in 1984. Brunei is an absolute monarchy, meaning all power lies with the reigning Sultan – upon independence in 1984, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah named himself Prime Minister, for example. All private press is owned or controlled by the Royal family. The Sultan enjoys high popularity among most of the near half a million inhabitants of the small country which is approximately one quarter the size of Wales. Most Brunei citizens enjoy a high standard of living, thanks to the country’s large gas and oil deposits and the fact the majority ethnic-Malay population pay no taxes.