Rape and Domestic Violence: The law stipulates maximum imprisonment of 30 years and caning with a minimum of 12 strokes for rape. In July Chapter 22 of the Penal Code Order was amended to increase the minimum sentence for rape from eight years to 10-20 years. The law does not criminalize spousal rape and explicitly states that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape, as long as she is not younger than 14 years (15 years if she is ethnic Chinese). Islamic family law provides protections against spousal abuse and for the granting of protection orders, and it has been interpreted to cover sexual assault. The penalty for violating a protection order is a maximum fine of BND 2,000 ($1,460), maximum imprisonment of six months, or both. The government reported rape cases, but the crime did not appear prevalent.
There is no specific domestic violence law, but authorities arrested individuals in domestic violence cases under the law related to protection of women and girls. Police investigated domestic violence only in response to a report by a victim. The criminal penalty for a minor domestic assault is one to two weeks in jail and a fine. An assault resulting in serious injury is punishable by caning and a longer prison sentence.
A special police unit staffed by female officers investigated domestic abuse and child abuse complaints. The Department of Community Development in the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports provided counseling for women and their spouses. Some female and minor victims were placed in protective custody at a government-sponsored shelter while waiting for their cases to be scheduled in court.
Islamic courts staffed by male and female officials offered counseling to married couples in domestic violence cases. Islamic courts recognized assault as grounds for divorce.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law criminalizes FGM/C. There were no reports of FGM/C being performed on women older than 18.
There were no statistics on the prevalence of FGM/C, but the government reported that in general it was done within 40 days of birth based on religious belief, health, and custom. The Ministry of Religious Affairs declared circumcision for Muslim girls (sunat) a religious rite obligatory under Islam and described it as the removal of the hood of the clitoris (Type I per World Health Organization (WHO) classification). The government does not consider this practice to be FGM/C and expressed support for WHO’s call for the elimination of FGM and the call for member countries to enact and enforce legislation to protect girls and women from all forms of violence, including FGM/C. The government claimed the practice rarely resembled the Type I description and had not caused medical complications or complaints.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates that whoever assaults or uses criminal force, intending thereby to outrage, or knowing the act is likely to outrage the modesty of a person, shall be punished by caning and a maximum imprisonment of five years. There were reports of sexual harassment, but the crime did not appear to be prevalent.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: In accordance with the government’s interpretation of the Quran’s precepts, Muslim women and men are accorded different rights.
Secular civil law permits female citizens to own property and other assets, including business properties. Noncitizen husbands of citizens may not apply for permanent resident status until they reside in the country for a minimum of seven years, whereas noncitizen wives may do so after two years of marriage. Although citizenship is automatically inherited from citizen fathers, citizen mothers may pass their nationality to their children only through an application process in which children are first issued a COI (and considered stateless).
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from the father, or, following an application process, the mother. Birth registration is universal and equal for girls and boys, except among indigenous Dusun and Iban people in rural areas. Stateless parents must apply for a special pass for a child born in the country. Failure to register a birth is against the law, and later makes it difficult to enroll the child in school.
Child Abuse: Child abuse occurred and was prosecuted, but the crime did not appear prevalent. The Royal Brunei Police Force hosts a specialized Woman and Child Abuse Crime Investigation Unit, and the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports provided shelter and care to victims.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls is 14 years with parental and participant consent, unless otherwise stipulated by religion or custom under the law, which generally set a higher minimum age. The Islamic Family Act sets the minimum marriageable age at 16 years for Muslim girls and 18 years for Muslim men and makes it an offense to use force, threat, or deception to compel a person to marry against his or her own will. Ethnic Chinese must be 15 years or older to marry, according to the Chinese Marriage Act, which also stipulates sexual intercourse with an ethnic Chinese girl younger than 15 years is considered rape even if it is with her spouse.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law, sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 14 years constitutes rape and is punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 30 years and a minimum of 12 strokes of the cane. The law provides for protection of women, girls, and boys from exploitation through prostitution and “other immoral purposes,” including pornography. The government applied the law against “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” to prosecute rape of male children.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There was no known Jewish community in the country. Comments disparaging Jewish persons collectively were posted online and on social media.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities or mandate accessibility or other assistance for them. The government provided “inclusive” educational services for children with disabilities in both government and religious schools. All persons regardless of disability received the same rights and access to health care. The Department for Community Development conducted several programs targeted at promoting awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities.
Nine registered NGOs worked to supplement services provided by the three government agencies that support persons with disabilities. Public officials, including the sultan, called for persons with disabilities to be included in everyday activities. Access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities was inconsistent.
The government favors ethnic Malays in society through its national Malay Islamic Monarchy philosophy, which is enshrined in the constitution. Under the constitution, ministers and most top officials must be Malay Muslims, although the sultan has the discretion to make exceptions. Members of the military must be indigenous Malay, a member of a specified indigenous group, or nonindigenous Malay Muslim. The government pressured both public and private sector employers to increase hiring of Malay citizens. Land Code amendments published in June ban noncitizens from holding land via the power of attorney, trust deeds, or long-term leases and retroactively declared all such contracts null and void with no specified recourse or restitution. The amendments, which primarily affect ethnic Chinese and some indigenous minorities, had not been implemented as of year’s end.
Some indigenous persons were stateless. In rural areas some indigenous persons did not register births, creating difficulties in school enrollment, access to health care, and employment. Indigenous lands were not specifically demarcated, and there were no specially designated representatives for indigenous groups in the LegCo or other government entities. Indigenous persons generally had minimal participation in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, and traditions and in the exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, or other natural resources on and under indigenous lands.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Secular law criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” In July Chapter 22 of the Penal Code Order was amended to increase the minimum sentence for such carnal intercourse to between 20 and 50 years’ incarceration. The amendment was primarily applied in cases of rape or child abuse wherein both attacker and victim are male, because existing law covers only assault of a woman by a man. The SPC bans “liwat” (anal intercourse) between men or between a man and a woman who is not his wife. If implemented, this law would impose death by stoning. The SPC also prohibits men from dressing as women or women dressing as men “without reasonable excuse” or “for immoral purposes.” There were no known convictions during the year.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community reported unofficial and societal discrimination in public and private employment, housing, recreation, and in obtaining services including education from state entities. LGBTI individuals reported intimidation by police, including threats to make public their sexuality, to hamper their ability to obtain a government job, or to bar graduation from government academic institutions. Members of the LGBTI community reported the government monitored their activities and communications. Events on LGBTI topics were subject to restrictions on assembly and expression. The LGBTI community reported that the government would not issue permits for such events.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
HIV and HIV-related stigma and discrimination occurred. By law foreigners infected with HIV are not permitted to enter or stay in the country, although no medical testing is required for short-term tourists.