London: Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah has returned an honorary law degree awarded by Britain's prestigious Oxford University after it raised concerns over the country's implementation of a new law that proposes death penalty for gay sex and adultery, according to media reports. The oil-rich Southeast Asian nation had in April introduced a new strict anti-LGBT law that made sex between men and adultery punishable by stoning to death.
Following a global outcry, boycotts and celebrity protests, the Sultan earlier this month backtracked and announced that the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the penal code changes.
In April, more than 118,500 people have signed a petition calling on the university to rescind the honorary law degree awarded in 1993 to the sultan, the BBC reported. The university, in a statement said, it opened a review "in the light of concerns about the new penal code". "The varsity was informed that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah would be returning his degree after it wrote to him last month," the report said quoting a university spokeswoman.
The sultan decided to return his degree on 6 May, according to media reports.
Oxford MP Layla Moran also wrote to the university urging it to strip the world second-longest reigning monarch of the degree, and said it being returned was "clearly not sufficient", the report said. She said: "Oxford University now has a chance to redeem itself and move past being tied to such gross violations of human rights. "I think it is best the university should undertake a thorough review of their honorary degree system to ensure a scandal like this doesn't happen again."
Previously the university said: "Just as nobody has a right to confer an honorary degree, nobody has a right summarily to rescind it." The Sultan, who is also the prime minister of the oil-rich country, has defended the decision to adopt a strict new interpretation of Islamic laws, or Sharia. In a speech he said although there would be a moratorium on the death penalty, the "merit" of the new laws would eventually become clear. Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
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Updated Date: May 24, 2019 20:56:11 IST