The first Australian rally to protest new anti-gay laws in Brunei has been held in Brisbane opposite the Brunei-owned Royal on the Park Hotel.
A group of around 100 people gathered in the City Botanic Gardens on Saturday afternoon chanted “Shame Sultan, shame” to protest the southeast Asian country’s introduction last week of the death penalty for homosexual sex, adultery, blasphemy and apostasy.
Among those to address the rally were national PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent, who said the situation in Brunei was a human rights emergency in our region.
“As a parent I think of the terrible worry the mums and dads of Brunei must have for their LGBTIQ children,” she said.
“Even here in Australia parents of LGBTIQ children have to worry about their children’s safety. I can’t imagine what it must be like to worry your children might be dragged off to be whipped, caned, mutilated or stoned to death.”
Brisbane lawyer Stephen Page said the United Nations had condemned the laws as “cruel and inhuman” and the laws set a “dangerous precedent” in the region.
“Brunei is a small country, but what Brunei does Indonesia might follow and they have a much bigger population right on our doorstep,” he said.
Activist Belinda Cox also spoke movingly of the plight of women in Brunei, and Roz Dickson told the rally Brunei’s new laws aimed at transgender people would make any form of existence for them in the country “intolerable”.
Queensland Labor senator Claire Moore told the crowd they should call the Brunei High Commission in Canberra and express their disapproval to the laws.
“Get onto them and make sure they’re aware their leadership is doing something that is bringing Brunei into shame,” she said.
“Large organisations like Amnesty and groups of people across the world are focusing in on Brunei, so we’re part of that.”
Destiny Rogers, who emceed the rally and is editor of QN Magazine, said it was vital that people speak out against the Brunei government’s actions.
“The people of Brunei have no voice. There is no free press in Brunei, social media is monitored by the government, no dissenting opinions are tolerated and in fact, it is breaking the new laws to criticise those new laws,” she said.
“It is imperative people outside Brunei speak against this egregious disregard of human rights by an hypocritical autocratic dictator.
“Protests and boycotts have always proved potent weapons against human rights violations.
“They helped achieve marriage equality in Australia, brought down apartheid in South Africa and the people of Sudan just rid themselves of their dictator of 30 years through peaceful protest.”
‘We can change the world for the better’
A new petition calling for Australia to break diplomatic ties with Brunei and move to suspend it from the Commonwealth was launched on Saturday by advocacy group just.equal.
“Sometimes it may feel that we are powerless to prevent the kind of barbarity we see in Brunei,” just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said on Saturday.
“But if the history LGBTIQ movement teaches us anything it’s that we can change the world for the better.
“18 months ago, Australia voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality, a reform that just 10 years ago was opposed by the majority of Australia.
“This week we saw Tasmania go from having the worst transgender laws to having the best.
“Real profound change is possible if we bravely stand up against hate, refuse to settle for what governments dish out for us and work together for the sake of a more inclusive world.”
QN Magazine | For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.