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Brunei Sultan Returns Oxford Degree After Uproar Over Proposal to Punish Gay Sex With Death by Stoning

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The Sultan of Brunei has returned an honorary degree he received from the University of Oxford in England after global backlash over his proposal to punish people who engage in same-sex relations with the death penalty, according to Reuters and other outlets.

After worldwide outrage over the harsh laws Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced in April — which stipulate that gay sex and adultery require death by stoning, and also punish lesbian sex through whipping and theft through amputation — Oxford reached out to the Sultan about the honorary law degree the distinguished institution awarded him in 1993.

“As part of the review process, the university wrote to notify the sultan on 26 April 2019, asking for his views by 7 June 2019,” the university told Reuters via email. “Through a letter dated 6 May 2019, the sultan replied with his decision to return the degree.”

More than 115,000 people signed a petition on Change.org calling on Oxford to rescind the degree. Celebrities including George Clooney and Elton John also spoke out against the Sultan’s proposals.

Gay sex and a number of other acts, including rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sex for Muslims and insulting the Prophet Muhammed, are all punishable by death under the rollout of the new Sharia laws, though widespread condemnation of the code prompted a moratorium on the anti-LGBT punishments.

Earlier this month, the Sultan said in a speech that the predominantly Muslim Asian nation of about 450,000 people would not enforce the draconian laws — acknowledging they raised “many questions and misperceptions” — but also defended them, saying they had “merit.”

Before the Sultan announced the changes in April, homosexuality was illegal in Brunei, but punished through prison time.

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Write to Abby Vesoulis at abby.vesoulis@time.com