The Foreign Ministry of Brunei has said the latest implementation of an anti-gay law aims to serve as a preventive measure rather than punishment.

The county’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Erywan Yusof, said the Sharia law focuses more on prevention than punishment, with an aim to educate, deter and rehabilitate, the BBC reported.

He said that Sharia does not criminalize people based on their belief or sexual orientation. And the criminalization of sodomy and adultery aimed to protect the sanctity of family lineage, as well as the marriage of Muslims.

He said the maximum punishments of death or amputations would require at least two men of “high moral standing and piety” to bear witness in order to be carried out, but that would be difficult to find “in this day and age.”

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on April 11 he had spoken to Yusof and been told that Sharia prosecutions were not likely to be put into practice.

Global condemnation

Brunei appears to have back-pedaled in the face of a wave of global condemnation at its announcement that people could be stoned to death if convicted of homosexual activity or adultery.

The United Nations, the US and the European Union have led a chorus of attacks on the news from all around the world, which spurred prominent identities such as George Clooney and Elton John to call for people to boycott nine hotels in the UK, Europe and the US owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “believes that human rights are to be upheld in relation to every person everywhere without any kind of discrimination.

“The legislation approved is in clear violation with the principles expressed. So long as people face criminalization, bias and violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, we must redouble our efforts to end these violations. Everyone is entitled to live free and equal in dignity and rights,” he said.

Brunei is a Muslim-majority former British protectorate on the north of Borneo Island with a population of around 400,000. Early this month it began implementing Sharia laws that punish sodomy, adultery and rape with the death penalty – including by stoning, and theft with amputation.

But those convicted of lesbian intercourse would be given 40 strokes of the cane or a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail, it said.