Boycotts do, in fact, work, or at least one did. The Sultan of Brunei has agreed to rescind a law permitting gay sex to be punishable by death, thanks in part to a celebrity boycott of his luxury hotels.
Deadline reports that on Sunday, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah issued a moratorium on a brutal law that made homosexuality a crime punishable by death by stoning. The law, which went into effect on April 3, was part of Brunei’s new Syariah Penal Code Order, which also criminalized abortion, mandated the amputation of limbs for stealing, and made lesbian sex punishable by “40 lashes with a whip,” according to the Human Rights Watch.
The laws were met with fitting outrage, and celebrities like George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres protested them by boycotting the sultan’s international hotels, which include Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, in addition to the Dorchester in London and the Hotel Eden in Rome. A number of multinational banks, like J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, followed suit, banning their employees from staying at the Brunei-owned hotels, according to the Financial Times.
Clooney also wrote a series of guest posts for Deadline decrying Brunei’s barbaric laws, as well as similarly brutal anti-LGBTQ laws in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran:
For those that want to play “what-about-isms,” what about Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Somalia? There’s a long list. Well then, get to it. We all do what we can. For my part I spend the better part of my days chasing corruption and criminals led by some of the worst human rights violators in the world. And we do it by chasing their finances and confronting the establishments that they’re laundering money through. Believe me, no banker living in London wants to be outed as a human rights profiteer. Sunlight is the great disinfectant. Boycotts are sunlight.
You can’t make the bad guys be good, but you can stop the good guys from being complicit.
Homosexuality is still illegal in Brunei, even with the death penalty moratorium. It is punishable by up to ten years in prison.