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Digital Subscriptions > DIVA Magazine > June 2019 > FORBIDDEN LOVE: THE LESBIANS OF BRUNEI

FORBIDDEN LOVE: THE LESBIANS OF BRUNEI

IN A COUNTRY WHERE CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS IS CONSIDERED A MORE SERIOUS OFFENCE THAN SEX TRAFFICKING, CHLOE GOVAN REVEALS THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE UNDER THE RADAR FOR BRUNEI’S CRIMINALISED LESBIAN POPULATION
ILLUSTRATION FERNANDO SAFONT

A woman collapses to the ground, blood seeping out of her lacerated wounds and soaking through her clothing. A baying crowd are gathered around to witness her public punishment, holding up their phones with glee to video her in excruciating pain. When the attack is over and the cane is discarded, she is dragged by the wrist to a damp, dirty prison cell that could be her home for the next 10 years. Her only crime? Falling in love with another woman.

It might seem like a sadistic scene from a horror movie, but this medieval deterrent is potentially a real-life consequence for a woman daring to make her lesbian identity public in the sultanate of Brunei. And soon, if rumours are to be believed, the sentence for women will be upgraded to match that of gay men: the death penalty.

Of course to an innocent tourist, Brunei seems like a blissful holiday paradise with its opulent seven-star hotels, swathes of tropical rainforest, and even romantic water villages that have been labelled as the “Venice of the East”. Plus, residents of this tiny Southeast Asian country – described by Lonely Planet as “a bucktoothed bite-mark off the coast of Borneo”– enjoy a comfortable tax-free lifestyle that would be impossible here in the UK. The Sultan was once the wealthiest man in the world, with a casual collection of several thousand cars – and, courtesy of his extravagant oil wealth, locals beneit from free healthcare, free schooling, and 0% income tax and VAT.

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About DIVA Magazine

Looking outrageously chic on the cover of our style issue is showrunner, writer and all round mega-babe Lauren Morelli. In an exclusive interview with DIVA’s Roxy Bourdillon, she spills the tea on her super queer new Netflix show, Tales Of The City. And keep the Kleenex on standby, as Lauren also shares her remarkable personal journey, revealing how she discovered her sexuality on the set of Orange Is The New Black, and what it’s really like being Mrs Samira Wiley. Also in this issue… Ellen Page talks sex scenes and standing in her truth Lucy Spraggan: “There are many insecurities in the LGBTQI community” A little lez conversation: On the set of Heather Peace’s brand new chat show How to dress like your fave celesbian Queer Eye: What’s it like to be a stylist on the Netflix hit? Forbidden love: We meet the lesbians in Brunei PLUS Travel, fashion and much, much more!