The tiny South-east Asian country of Brunei is introducing strict new Islamic laws that makes gay sex an offence punishable by stoning to death.
The new measures, set to begin Wednesday, also cover a range of other crimes including punishment for theft by amputation.
The move has sparked international condemnation and outcry.
The Bruneian gay community has expressed shock and fear at the “medieval punishments”.
“You wake up and realise that your neighbours, your family or even that nice old lady that sells prawn fritters by the side of the road doesn’t think you’re human, or is okay with stoning,” one Bruneian gay man, who did not want to be identified, told the BBC.
Under the new law, individuals will only be convicted of gay sex if they confess or are seen committing the act by four witnesses.
Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Brunei, on the island of Borneo, is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and has grown rich on oil and gas exports.
The 72-year-old sultan heads the Brunei Investment Agency, which has some of the world’s top hotels including the Dorchester in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles in its portfolio.
This week Hollywood actor George Clooney and other celebrities called for a boycott of the luxury hotels.
Brunei’s ruling royals possess a huge private fortune and its largely ethnic-Malay population enjoy generous state handouts and pay no taxes.
Muslims make up about two-thirds of the country’s population of 420,000.
Brunei has retained the death penalty but has not carried out an execution since 1957.
Is this the first time Islamic law is being introduced in Brunei?
The country first introduced Sharia law in 2014 despite widespread condemnation, giving it a dual legal system with both Sharia and Common Law. The sultan had said then that the new penal code would come into full force over several years.
The first phase, which covered crimes punishable by prison sentences and fines, was implemented in 2014. Brunei had then delayed introducing the final two phases, which cover crimes punishable by amputation and stoning.
But on Saturday, the government released a statement on its website saying the Sharia penal code would be fully implemented on Wednesday.
In the days since, there has been international outrage and calls for the country to reverse course.
“These abusive provisions received widespread condemnation when plans were first discussed five years ago,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a Brunei researcher at Amnesty International.
“Brunei’s penal code is a deeply flawed piece of legislation containing a range of provisions that violate human rights.”
The United Nations echoed the statement, calling the legislation “cruel, inhuman and degrading”, saying it marked a “serious setback” for human rights protection.