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 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
updated 7:28 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 6:31 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT