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17 Jan 2011

Homosexuality in Brunei

Researchers from the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) reported that despite the gay community's "silence", the number of the sub-group is "rising" and they have even "formed clubs exclusively catering to homosexual men."

Brunei's widest-circulating English-language newspaper the Borneo Bulletin reported last Friday that the social issue of homosexuality was for the first time discussed officially in a nation that "upholds the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy."

Map source: CIA World Fact Book

Presented last Thursday prior to the closing of the National Seminar on Social Issues, the paper titled "Gay in Brunei Darussalam: An initial observation" was a research project by two researchers at the Academy of Brunei Studies at UBD Pg Khairul Rijal Pg Hj Abdul Rahim and Zulhilmi Hj Jaidin.

The study is reportedly based on interviews and questionnaires with 29 gay men and focuses on a demographic breakdown on homosexual men and their relationships with other men. Twenty five of the respondents were local and four were foreign nationals residing in Brunei. The majority of respondents were Malay (24), three were Chinese, one was Filipino and one Indonesian. Twenty-eight were single and one was married.

The researchers added that Brunei Darussalam is not exempted from the social phenomena of homosexuality despite the nation's image of being "peaceful and harmonious". They added that 'gay' mannerism in the country "is not obvious within the general community" when compared to effeminate men.

According to the Borneo Bulletin:

- Those who participated in the study explained to the researchers that gay men are not as similar to effeminate men, as the latter are men who act like women including their appearance, their speech as well as their mannerism and, when it comes to sexual relations, effeminate men play the "woman's role".

- Gay men, meanwhile, have attributes that are difficult to depict and may act and behave either like men or women, including during sexual relations in which gay men not only become the 'woman' but can also become the 'man'.

- Those involved in the study said they have a much "higher status" compared to effeminate men and explained to researchers that gay men can be categorised into two groups - gay men who have feelings for other men and those who have feelings and have sexual relations with other men.

- When asked to elaborate further about the history of their sexual preference, 11 said that they "chose" to be homosexuals, five said they were "influenced" by their friends, four said they were attracted to the same sex, four said it was "natural", another four said it was due to "familial influence" and one said he turned gay because of a failed relationship.

- Social backlash, especially from parents, were also asked and the majority of participants - 18 (62%) in total - have told researchers that their parents are accepting of their choices and 11 (38%) of the men say that their parents were not as accepting.

- Twenty-four out of 27 respondents (two did not provide feedback) admitted that they take part in sexual relations with other men. Twelve of the men said they do not ask for payment when the suggestion of performing sexual acts was brought up. This statistics, said the panel, is an indication that having sexual relations "is the main agenda" within the gay community.

- Based on the study, the panel said that homosexual men prioritised looks. Twenty-two of the men said that they preferred good looking men and who have a specific type of physique, while two other said they preferred men who are "romantic and caring", two others said they preferred rich men and another two men said preferences varies. One of the 29 men did not respond to this question.

Editor's note (Jan 18, 2011): While the results of the survey may sound primitive and skewed especially considering researchers only surveyed 29 gay men, the survey was reported by at least two mainstream Bruneian newspapers as being the first of its kind undertaken by university researchers and presented in a public setting. The news reports have also generated online discussions as seen here, here and here.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), homosexuality is illegal in Brunei. Not unsurprising, very little about homosexuality is reported in mainstream newspapers. An Internet search only turned up Should beheading be the penalty for homosexuals? published on June 13, 2008 in The Brunei Times. In the article, writer Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti, director of the Islamic Center of South Plains, Lubbock, Texas, US called for a more scholarly consideration of Islamic criminal jurisprudence in response to Gambian President Yahya Jammeh threats to behead homosexuals on the basis of Islamic virtue. I would not go as far as calling this recent coverage and discussion in the local mainstream media progress but it is certainly a development worth watching for anyone interested in LGBT-related Brunei news.

Brunei Darussalam

Reader's Comments

1. 2011-01-17 20:31  
OMG... the Asian phobia against effeminate men rears its ugly head...again. There is no surer indicator the the judgemental one is ashamed of his own sexuality

Its my opinion that effeminate men are much to be admired, at least they have the courage to be who they are
2. 2011-01-17 21:20  
In reading articles such as these (or research results) it remains striking the paradigms by which so many people remain confined. With Denseaus, I'd agree, to the extent that people are prejudiced against effeminate men; yet, I'd add, that in the Asian context(s), such men seem to be understood as at least fitting the traditional binary division (male/female). Really, it's the masculine fags that scare the fuck out of everyone as they call into question the 'normal' categorizations. Charge ahead!
3. 2011-01-17 21:35  
My jaws dropped at the so-called "research" results. The participants, in my opinion, clearly didn't give their "honestest" responses to the questions asked. That said, however, I can very well understand why they said what they said. Brunei Darussalam, after all, is an Islamic-centric nation where homosexuality is not merely just frowned upon, but can be punishable by law. Honestly, why would anyone in their right mind "choose" to be gay (whether or not after no matter how many failed relationships), knowing fully well of the potential punishment, danger (physical assault) and discrimination they would subject themselves to? It just didn't make sense.
4. 2011-01-17 21:41  
"The researchers added that Brunei Darussalam is not exempted from the social phenomena of homosexuality despite the nation's image of being "peaceful and harmonious". "

These guys should get some special award for this groundbreaking research.

I always laught at what Fridae considers to be newsworthy.
5. 2011-01-17 22:21  
this "studies" seem expose for those "moral" police that common in extreme muslim countries, time bomb to do "cleaning"
6. 2011-01-17 22:23  
Well now.. a country cannot consider itself different from the rest of the world, even if it does proclaim to be Islamic! Such a revelation! I am concerned that almost 1/3 of the sample reported they "chose" to be gay. This implies they could "choose" not to be. The last time I heard this was from someone who was so terrrified of the consequences they said anything that would keep them from trouble.
7. 2011-01-17 22:39  
just keep in mind tht, despite the comment from 'liv2fullest' (perhaps he's not aware of it), although brunei is considered a Strict Islamic Country, yet unlike Malaysia, there is no specific law condemning Gay or Lesbian in Brunei. so i am still grateful with tht.
8. 2011-01-17 23:35  
Kuman1012: I always laught at what Fridae considers to be newsworthy.

Kuman and lagunabore should be getting the most devoted and active Fridae reader/member awards already! Despite the articles being 'unnewsworthy', 'boring', etc, they are always back for more!
9. 2011-01-18 01:13  
It seems, from the tone of their comments, that the researchers knew absolutely nothing about the vast range of gay culture before they started their study. The statement that "gay men can be categorised into two groups - gay men who have feelings for other men and those who have feelings and have sexual relations with other men" completely omits the 'MSM' who simply have sex with other men, without ever thinking themselves gay, wanting any kind of relationship or taking part in gay life. An American friend who has lived in Iraq and Egypt has told me that 'straight' men f*** each other like rabbits when no-one is watching, simply because women are safely locked out of reach!
10. 2011-01-18 02:08  
hahaha.. nussbaum.. i agree wit ya..
lived in egypt for more than 4 yrs..
easy picking, i shall say considering most men there would fuck anyone..anything.. dont have to be gay to have fun n be wild... miss egypt !!!
11. 2011-01-18 03:15  
A sample of 29 is hardly reflective of any situation nor can it be treated as reliable information. Deductions and findings from such research methodology I personally find difficult to rational with. This makes the researchers' credential questionable. Clubs? Night clubs or book clubs?
12. 2011-01-18 07:19  
Wow, “homosexual men prioritize looks” ?! Quite a revelation, eh ? Congrats to the astute Brunei researchers who uncovered that little tidbit of knowledge.

Having spent years of research at the Café Select campus of the Université de Voir-et-Se-Faire-Voir, I can now also reveal that straight men prioritize looks too.

Damn, I think we are on to something here ! Could it be that human beings are motivated by, gasp, sexual attraction ? Of course we will have to wait for further in-depth research from the Universiti Brunei Darussalam to be certain of that... well, as soon as they move on from the 19th century.
13. 2011-01-18 08:20  
This piece of news may not be "newsworthy" to Kuman1012, but it is interesting to those wishing to learn about what goes on in other societies. The study has revealed so much about Brunei--official slogans, misconceptions, research constraints, including the obvious prejudices against and ignorance about homosexuality.
We should give the researchers acknowledgement for their courage in tackling the issue of homosexuality in Brunei. Whatever the internal phobia exhibited by the respondents in the study, they should also be given due respect. Even liberal societies in countries where homosexuality is legally accepted there are always men who would choose not to participate in surveys like this, let alone giving honest answers.

14. 2011-01-18 09:25  
the survery seems pretyt askew from wat i see
people sohould just learn to let their hair down and go with the flow
15. 2011-01-18 11:13  
readers should be careful how they interpret these answers may be they 'chose' to accept and embrace their sexual orientation as do I as do most heterosexuals and thats a good thing, with any research it would be good to know the professional expertise of the reasearchers if they had any kind of anthropological training especially in regards to homosexuality and don't have a profound bias any way, as for 'fem' men well doesn't it depend on the individual my last X was 'a queen' (in 'gay' terminology) he is gorgeous as a person and is often a joy to be with having a great sence of joy and no he wasn't inclined to lay on his stomach and spread his legs feminine doesn't equal sexually passive strangely in my experience it's often the big 'butch' ones bending over the fastest, some people are just plain perceptually dated many same sex attracted men are, in regards to either extreme feminine or masculine behaviour they can be quite a parody and grotesque it's usually premeditated or just learned behaviour coming from tortured minds, most 'normal' people are dotted along the behavioral graph line it's important to just find who you are and what's comfortable for you, for some it's hard to not try having to fit in to straight jacketed society ideals or play a stereotype as it's what your supposed to be according to dated homophobic legend, most gay/bisexual men are now alot more clued up and comfortable about them selves and as we often note here with het boys also undergoing their own evolutionary change the distinctions are becoming so blurred it hard to tell who's what any more, and thats a good thing too except when you get the hots for them and can't figure out if U can make a play for them
Comment edited on 2011-01-18 11:21:34
16. 2011-01-18 12:30  
There are so many problems in this research that I feel bad Fridae decided to report it. It starts right from the start with the nation that "upholds the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy."

Did you really have to start the article that way?

And then at the end: "despite the nation's image of being "peaceful and harmonious". You started off with two claims that are extremely vague. The one to blame is simply the writer who wrote this research, probably also because the place where the conference was held must not have had many applicants to begin with. But why report this badly thought of research?
17. 2011-01-18 12:50  
Homosexuality in Brunei live peacefully in their own personal ways it is truely the kingdom of unexpected pleasure ;)
18. 2011-01-18 17:57  
From a Foucault-influenced view of sexuality, both the wording and the results of the report are extremely problematic (as the comments above already pointed out). However, I was reminded very recently that we simply cannot transplant Western ontological categories (e.g. "gay") onto non-Western societies as if the categories were universal and transhistorical. Don't get me wrong. As someone who was educated in the US, I also cringed when I read the above article. Nevertheless, we should try to understand the survey responses in their own cultural terms before we make any judgments.
Comment #19 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-18 19:36
20. 2011-01-18 19:38  
It's quite interesting to read everyone's comments here. With different opinions and assumptions making the news ... dashing!

In Brunei, there are no such rules condemning homosexuality although it has been mentioned only that sex outside marriage is extremely forbidden (its for the heteros only). I can say homosexual men and women here live peacefully and harmoniously. In fact most of them hold high ranking and respectful positions. In fact most of them live their own way of life harmoniously and yes, they do socialise with everyone regardless their sexual orientation. It is more a way of acceptance. People here don't really mock them to the extreme like in some other countries. we don't have those kind of gay-bashing or what so ever. It's just that everybody mind their own live and business.

It's perhaps their business with God the mighty creator. Only He can judge His servants because He made them that way. It's not for us humans to judge anybody.

I can say that I'm very grateful to stay in Brunei and I couldn't imagine how it feels like to live in countries where they are lots of homo-phobics.

Btw, the research was done last minute. Hence the result was quite limited, vague and less accurate.
21. 2011-01-18 19:45  
I refer to dino78's comment.

I was profoundly surprised to hear that Brunei, as an ex-British Protectorate, did not inherit or reinstate one of those anti-gay laws like those still practicing in other ex-British colonies such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

But then again, what about the newly established syaria laws? I certainly hope the religious ministry (or whoever is against homosexuality) is not using the research results as a pretext to implementing anti-gay laws in Brunei. Just a conspiracy theory. :)
22. 2011-01-18 21:11  
The results of this "so-called" research really concern me.

First off, I would hardly call this a real research, as only 29 participants are nowhere near sufficient to represent the gay community as a whole. I know it is demographical but I doubt that gay men in Brunei are any different from the rest of the world.

Secondly, the results really give off the sense of superficiality and severely simplified. I personally do not totally agree to that "gay men are not as similar to effeminate men" statement. In the end of the day, they are all gay. It doesn’t matter if one is masculine or effeminate, though I do understand that this may be more of a cultural thing than the definition of the word 'gay' itself.

Thirdly, it is deeply disturbing to know that a large percentage of respondents said they CHOOSE to be gay. From my own experience, I have never once believed that I am gay because I choose to be, nor have I met any other people that truly choose to be. You are either gay or you are not. I think there are only a couple instances where the word ‘choose’ could be used:
1. A person realizes his attraction to people of the same sex and CHOOSES to accept or DENY that he is gay.
2. A person, already knowing and accepting his true sexual orientation, CHOOSES to come out to other people.

There is no such thing as a straight man choosing to be gay. A straight man engaging in a homosexual acts does not make him gay. It only makes him a horny person. Being gay is more than just actions and sex. A man can live a "gay-lifestyle" but if his real attraction is to women, he is straight. A man can live a "straight-lifestyle" for his whole life, but if his true attraction is to men, he is still gay.

The word 'choose' should not be used in such context. It gives too much room for interpretations. Either the questionnaire was not specific enough or the respondents were not entirely truthful. It could be due to the pressure of their society and saying "choose" may give them a sense of security that one day, should anything happens, they can exercise that choice to be straight. This is completely understandable, but it serves nothing to the gay community as a whole. As the matter of fact, it does the community a disservice. We’ve all heard it before how we are discriminated against because they think we can CHOOSE.

This is the kind of study Anti-Gay organizations/campaigns are looking for.
23. 2011-01-19 07:57  
i love super secret clubs like fraternities, hey it spawned the social network business and harvard and oxford have been doing it for hundreds of years, men like secret associations for centuries, kudos for a great start and one for gay men
24. 2011-01-19 13:37  
Yet another Muslim country shows how cutting edge it is, how open and tolerant, how civilised.

The research sounds exactly like it was written 100 years ago: same language, same attitudes.

25. 2011-01-20 03:09  
Yes, buhauyise, I recently gave a presentation on 100 yr old medical writings in the West about gay people (known then as "urnings", "perverts", "inverts", etc.), and the audience was humored by the absurdity of it all. On a par with current research in Bruinei, we must anticipate that Bruneian academics will soon catch up with material from only 60 years ago and find gay men have smaller muscles than "normal" men and that gay men menstruate, both of which I can demonstrate in print. Oppression + ignorance can produce amazing "discoveries" about the nature of sub-humans like us.
26. 2011-01-20 13:54  
i think government in general should spend more time on improving the country instead of controlling what people do in the privacy of their own bedroom.

honestly, what do they want at the end of the day? a "moral" society or a wealthy prosperous nation?

27. 2011-01-20 22:21  
I worked in Negara Brunei Darussalam for 3 years (Bandar Seri Begawan and Seria/Kuala Belait) and my gay encounters happened in the "exclusive" club that caters to the mostly white expatriates. Of course, we all had to be very discreet about it.

There were very few locals who were "curious" and still fewer guys who actually did something about their curiosities.

There were more "gay" meets in the oil platforms offshore, where it is 99% men (of all shades, shapes, sizes, and salary scales)

28. 2011-01-22 04:19  
The amount of serious gay news being ignored by fridae is now getting scandalous. Is it cos the CEO got himself compromised?
29. 2011-01-23 14:19  
This research is way much unreliable. Best researches involves the best research question- what is the exact research question employed here? Or is it just a research to question Bruneians what they think of being gay or what gay is?

Doesn't interest me (and apparently anyone in here) as there is a clear line between gay and "effeminate men". It's an Asian + a Muslim country anyway. The conservative image on "gay" guys are guys who wants to grow boobs. In religious sense, in Islam, especially since Brunei is a Muslim kingdom, gay or 'mukhannath' or unix has many kinds or maybe three and apparently the 'majority' exposed to sexual exploration was/is effeminate men. Hence, the common image.

I am Bruneian myself, and most do complain 29 is really a small sampling number- however 29 here in pretty small Brunei is a big number. Well, ofcourse the result will be more reliable with more sampling (but taking chances of increased variance or deviations from the 'norm').

The population of gay guys in Brunei is really small plus almost everyone's hiding from each other. The "degree of separation" in Brunei's own gay underground world is really really small. Probably 2 or 3.

In fact, if one is a really a sexuallu driven adventurous nature, it is way possible to just sleep with everygayone in Brunei within a year.

Other than that, I'd say almost everygayone wants to leave Brunei. Otherwise, stay and be a money digging machine.

That's all I can say of my view(s).
30. 2011-03-03 22:34  
HEY....somebody faulting Fridae for publishing a report like this. It's news, exactly what it was, under the title ' News around the world '. Skipping the absurdity of the 'researching methods ' and the primitive mentality towards gays in that country; we wouldn't have the priviledge of knowing all this if Fridae hadn't published this report, now, would we?

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