Brunei must rowback on plans to implement changes to its penal code next month that could see LGBT+ people whipped or stoned to death for same-sex activity, human rights groups said on Monday.
Brunei was the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law in 2014 when it announced the first of three stages of legal changes that included fines or jail for offenses like pregnancy outside marriage or failing to pray on Friday.
Previously homosexuality was illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, but the changes would allow whipping and stoning to death for Muslims found guilty of adultery, sodomy and rape, said human rights groups.
The country delayed implementing the final two stages of changes after an international backlash in 2014 but now plans to go ahead with both on April 3, said Matthew Woolfe, founder of human rights group The Brunei Project.
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, a Manila-based human rights group, confirmed the implementation of the remaining changes were due to take place on April 3, citing government documents.
Manila-based OutRight Action International also confirmed Brunei was about to implement a new stage in its sharia laws.
The Brunei Prime Minister's Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
"We are trying to get pressure placed on the government of Brunei but realize there is a very short time frame until the laws take effect," Woolfe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, calling on governments to step up diplomatic pressure on Brunei.
"It took us by surprise that the government has now given a date and is rushing through implementation," said the Australia-based campaigner.