Brunei is enacting a strict new penal code that imposes death by stoning for adultery and gay sex, as well as amputations as punishment for theft, despite widespread criticism.
An absolute monarchy, ruled for 51 years by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, oil-rich Brunei first announced the new penal code in 2013, but full implementation has been delayed.
Bolkiah, 72, is the world’s second-longest reigning monarch and ranks as one of the world’s wealthiest people.
The new law mostly applies to Muslims, though some aspects will also apply to non-Muslims. It stipulates the death penalty for a number of offences, including rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insulting or defaming the Prophet Muhammad.
It also introduces public flogging as punishment for abortion as well as amputation for theft and criminalises exposing Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion other than Islam.
The sultan first announced plans for the code in 2013.
The small Muslim-majority country, sandwiched between two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, had introduced penalties in stages, all of which come into force on Wednesday.
The laws will make Brunei the first country in East or Southeast Asia to impose the new penal code at the national level, joining several mostly Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia.