Skip to main content

Why stone them for whom they love?

By Mavis Leno
updated 9:19 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mavis Leno led the protest of the Beverly Hills Hotel, linked to sultan of Brunei
  • Brunei recently implemented laws punishing those found guilty of homosexuality or adultery
  • Punishments call for flogging of women who have abortions, stoning of gay men and lesbians
  • Organization's #StopTheSultan demanding Brunei rescind the laws, seeking U.N. action

Editor's note: Mavis Leno is a California-based philanthropist, feminist and wife of former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno. She is also a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which this week led the protest of the Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by a group controlled by the Sultan of Brunei. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- The movement to stop a horrific new Taliban-like penal code in Brunei is growing.

On Tuesday, I spoke at a rally organized by the Feminist Majority Foundation to demand that the sultan of Brunei immediately rescind the new law that includes the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians and the public flogging of women.

These "kill-a-gay" laws or laws that allow the brutal whipping of women for abortions violate international law and have no place in civilized society. My husband, Jay Leno, said it clearly at the rally: "What year is it, 1814 or 2014?"

As a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, I fought to stop the Taliban in Afghanistan. When no one else was paying attention, we were there, exposing the Taliban's reign of terror and the special viciousness it reserved for women and girls. We built a strong, diverse, unrelenting movement against the Taliban and helped Afghan women rally against gender apartheid. We fought the Taliban then, and we will fight these Taliban-like laws now.

There is no room for compromise. We are talking about people being stoned to death. We are talking about people being flogged. As we saw all too recently in Afghanistan, flogging can lead to death or paralysis. This is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for actions that no one should dare call "crimes." No one should be killed for who they are or whom they love. Women should not be abused for making their own health decisions.

Hollywood stars shun Brunei owned hotel
Author: Sultan of Brunei breaks own rules
Obama jokes with Sultan of Brunei

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed deep concern about this new penal code and has stated unequivocally that the Brunei law violates international law and human rights. Now that the sultan of Brunei has announced that the law will begin to be phased in, the United States and the United Nations must condemn the Brunei government.

And if Brunei fails to rescind this gruesome law, the U.N. should investigate whether Brunei should be allowed to remain a member of that body, a privilege it has had since 1984.

I pledge to do my part. The Feminist Majority Foundation pulled its annual Global Women's Rights Awards, an event that Jay and I co-chair every year, from the Beverly Hills Hotel -- a Dorchester Collection property owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. The agency is managed by the Brunei Ministry of Finance, which is controlled by the sultan.

We simply could not hold women's rights event at a hotel whose owner blatantly violates basic human rights.

We have also joined with LGBT rights groups and other women's right groups to protest this draconian new penal code. Although the law is being styled as a "religious" law, we see here, as we saw in Afghanistan, that religion has little to do with it. This is about a dictatorship using terror tactics to control the population. And we can't stand for that.

The sultan announced last week that he would phase in the new penal code over three years -- and the first phase, which includes fines and prison sentences, went into effect May 1. The second phase includes corporal punishment such as amputations and flogging women who have abortions. The stoning to death of gay men and lesbians is slated for the third phase.

But we can stop it. We've done it before, and you can help. The Feminist Majority Foundation has launched a massive petition drive and social media campaign using the hashtag #StopTheSultan, calling on the government of Brunei to rescind the code and asking the United Nations to take action. Sign the petition, and then spread the word.

We want everyone to know about this outrageous penal code. For human rights and dignity, it must be changed.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT