As of today, in Brunei, gay sex and adultery can be punished with death by stoning — and the president of the United States hasn’t said a word about it.
Donald Trump’s silence comes despite his administration’s announced campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality around the world — although that is something he seemed to have no clue about when questioned on it in February.
The small but oil-rich nation is an absolute monarchy ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah who decided to set this new rule with little explanation to why.
"I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger," Bolkiah said on Wedneseday morning local time, according to AFP news agency, but did not mention the new laws.
Homosexuality has been illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison for some time already — and are connected to Bolkiah's 2014 pursuits to usher in more conservative laws. However this new era seems to promise a level of brutality that has put the global community on edge.
In the past week, United Nations has urged Brunei not to implement these portions of the law as news broke. International human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have spoken out as well and begged for intervention on behalf of queer people there.
Celebrities including George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and stars of Queer Eye have focused on a boycott of the luxury hotels owned by the sultan’s company, the Dorchester Collection, as way to tangible move their fans to fight back. And even far-right U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, certainly no supporter of LGBTQ equality, has condemned these parts of the code as “barbaric.”
But there’s been nothing from the president who during his 2016 campaign made promises to be a fighter for LGBTQ people.
When the White House was repeatedly asked by The Advocate, they finally responded on the eve of the new laws arriving but representatives deferred to the State Department. Once pressed on how the president squares away his lack of action with Brunei with his past promises of LGBTQ protections, his spokespeople refused to respond.
The State Department attempted to fill this void by condemning the country's actions by calling them 'torture,' but still could not produce any real evidence that the U.S. would do anything.
"Governments have an obligation to ensure that all people, including LGBTI people, can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled," a spokesperson told The Advocate. "We strongly oppose human rights violations and abuses against LGBTI persons, including violence, the criminalization of LGBTI status or conduct, and serious forms of discrimination."
Previous administrations have intervened in moments of violence similar to this — like with Chechen attacks on LGBTQ people and Obama's administration slapping sanctions — but now no direct action is being taken.
And as the laws take place and some LGBGTQ people in the small country must decide to stay or potentially face brutal violence, the world can only watch and wait. Many locals have already begun to flee the country.