Petition launched to rename SOAS’ Brunei Gallery in response to Southeast Asian country’s new anti-LGBT+ stoning laws

SOAS Students’ Union has launched a petition to rename the Brunei Gallery in Russell Square, in response to new anti-LGBT+ laws which come into force in Brunei today.

Whilst homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei, punishable by up to ten years in prison, the new laws make gay sex an offence punishable by stoning to death. The law is part of a wider reform in Brunei which includes strict punishments for theft or even extramarital affairs.

SOAS SU has slammed these “heinous and draconian” reforms in a statement on Monday, at the same time making the case for renaming the Brunei Gallery, which is owned and managed by the university. The construction of the Gallery was funded through donations from the Sultan of Brunei.

The Union also offered “solidarity to all LGBTQIA* members of the community, and amplify their concerns about studying at a university hosting a building so closely affiliated with a country that would so cruelly dehumanise them.”

They continued, “We support changing the name of the Gallery and stepping up our efforts and commitment to make SOAS spaces as safe as possible.”

Alongside the petition, the Union has pledged to support panel events and “teach-ins” as part of a plan to both take a stand against laws which punish the LGBT+ community, and to celebrate LGBT+ struggles.

The School has not ruled out renaming the Gallery, which sits in London’s famous Museum Mile.

In a press release last Friday, SOAS affirmed their “vigorous” support for LGBT+ rights. They said, “the Sultan of Brunei made a donation to SOAS in 1995 to build the gallery and the gift was received before any introduction of Sharia Law in that country. The donor has no role, influence or involvement in the policy or operation of the gallery or the wider School.”

They continued, “a review of the Gallery is currently underway which will examine a range of areas.”

The School’s Director, Baroness Valerie Amos has previously said that the School would “debate” a demand to rename the Brunei Gallery.

SOAS and the SU join groups across London protesting against the laws. Imaan, a peer-support group for LGBT+ Muslims tweeted last Thursday that they were “alarmed” by the news that gay Muslims would be targeted in new stoning laws. Several celebrities, including George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres, have also pledged to boycott Brunei-owned hotels, one of which is the famous Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair.

Featured Image Credit: An Siarach

Will is London Student's Features Editor. He has recently completed a BA History at SOAS, and you might find him hiding in a library around Bloomsbury.

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