Sultan returns degree to Oxford, after anti-gay legislation uproar

The British university awarded the sultan the honorary degree in 1993. Almost 120,000 people have signed a petition asking the university to rescind the award. Brunei’s legislation now imposes the death penalty for offences such as sodomy, adultery and rape, which sparked international outrage. Celebrities have called for a boycott of nine hotels owned by the Sultan.

Bandar Seri Begawan (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah (pictured), returned an honorary degree he received from the prestigious University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom.

The decision follows an international backlash caused by the small country’s decision to impose the death penalty on offences such as sodomy, adultery and rape.

Reacting to the new legislation, international celebrities, like British musician Elton John and US actor George Clooney, have called for a boycott of nine hotels owned by the Sultan.

The new Sharia-based legislation adopted by Brunei’s monarch also includes the amputation of hands and feet for thieves. The changes were announced on 3 April.

Urged by human rights organisations and gay activists, the United Nations condemned the legislation.

In an attempt to contain media criticism, the sultan stated in early May that the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the Penal Code changes.

Starting in late April, almost 120,000 people signed a petition asking the University of Oxford to rescind the honorary law degree awarded in 1993 to the Sultan.

The university said yesterday that the monarch decided on 6 May to return the award, as it reviewed the case.

“As part of the review process, the university wrote to notify the sultan on 26 April 2019, asking for his views by 7 June 2019,” the university said in a statement.

“Through a letter dated 6 May 2019, the sultan replied with his decision to return the degree.”