Activists Set Worldwide Day of Protest Against Sultan of Brunei
Human rights and labor activists in 13 cities on four continents will hold an "international day of action" on June 27 to press for the Sultan of Brunei to repeal laws that discriminate against gays and women.
The protests, which are being organized by LGBT groups and international labor unions, are planned in every country where the Sultan's Dorchester Collection owns hotels: in London, at the Dorchester and 45 Park; in Geneva at Le Richemond; in Milan at the Hotel Principe de Savoia; in Rome at the Hotel Eden; in Paris at Le Meurice and in Beverly Hills at the Will Rogers Memorial park across the street from the Beverly Hills Hotel. (The local protest is set to get underway at 7p.m.)
"Supporters of women’s and LGBT rights will gather across from the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles to mark the anniversary of Stonewall and rededicate ourselves to fighting for equality and the right to be ourselves — everywhere," said L.A. gay rights activist Billy Pollina.
Termed #StopTheSultan, the rallies are also planned at the Brunei embassies in Washington D.C.; Brussels, Belgium; Canberra, Australia; Delhi, India; Manila, the Philippines; and Ottowa, Canada.
The coordinated effort, which has its own Facebook page marks an uptick in the campaign to force the sultan to repeal a harsh new penal code that calls for stoning gays and adulterers. In April, members of the entertainment industry staged the first protests against the sultan, calling for a local boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel Air.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama's national security advisor singled out Brunei as one of the world's worst transgressors against gay rights. "Unfortunately, in too many places, being gay or transgender is enough to make someone the target of slurs, torments, and violence," Susan Rice told a gathering of LGBT activists at the White House. "We all know the names of Harvey Milk, Eric Lembembe, David Kato, and too many other brave advocates who refused to hide or be silenced, and who have been ostracized or killed for their work.
"In many places, allies and supporters of the LGBT community are also penalized," Rice continued. "New laws in Uganda and Nigeria incite the fear of arrest and detention for those who provide health services or defend basic legal rights in court.
"In addition to the pernicious so-called 'propaganda/ law already on the books, proposed legislation in Russia would allow the government to take children away from their gay parents. There are almost 80 countries — eight-zero — countries in this world where discrimination against LGBT citizens is enshrined in law, and that number threatens to grow.
"In seven countries — eight, if Brunei continues on its path — same-sex acts are punishable by death."
She went on to state that the Obama Administration has "specifically directed that American diplomacy and American assistance promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women, all around the world.
"We’ve made it clear that the United States will respond appropriately when nations target their own citizens," Rice explained.
With the boycott now in its third month, some members of the industry are questioning whether protests are making a difference.
This week Kim Kardashian wrote in a post on her blog that she's "started to realize that maybe boycotting the hotel isn’t the best solution.
"For a sultan that has 20 billion dollars, this loss of business doesn’t even make a dent in his fortunes," Kardashian wrote. "But the hotel staff are being negatively affected every day with the boycott that has gone on for weeks now… We shouldn’t punish the amazing hard-working people who have been so good to us for years…There must be other ways to express our views without punishing the workers, some who I know personally have families at home and depend on the city’s business and tips to survive.
"When I was pregnant, the hotel was my safe haven," Kardashian continued. "There’s one waitress that works downstairs who was also pregnant at the same time as me and due just a few weeks apart. We would always share our pregnancy stories with each other. I know for a fact she has a new baby at home that she has to feed, so this boycott is affecting her tremendously… The unjust treatment and violation of rights of the LGBT community around the world is never justified and I will continue to proudly support the LGBT community in every way imaginable. I do believe though that instead of this boycott, there has to be another solution."