Destinations

Same-sex couple allegedly told by Smartraveller to “act heterosexual” ahead of Brunei stop-over

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

After contacting Smartraveller ahead of a planned trip to London through Brunei, a same-sex couple was reportedly told by an advisor to “act heterosexual” on their stop-over in the country.

Ahead of their flights to London – which would include a four-hour stop-over in Brunei after the changes to its laws and flights with the nation’s airline, Royal Brunei Airlines – a same-sex couple contacted Smartraveller over concerns for their safety.

Brunei has proposed the introduction of strict Islamic laws that would make sodomy, adultery and rape punishable by death-by-stoning. Public flogging as a punishment for abortion would also apply, as well as amputation for theft, once the proposed revisions become law.

The changes to the Bruneian penal code, incorporating the full Sharia penal code, are set to run in parallel with common law from 3 April, announcing the country’s denouement on sex and gender equality.

The pair had voiced their initial concerns to Webjet, which they had booked their flights through, and were advised by the company that they would not receive a refund.

The company advised the couple to directly contact Royal Brunei Airlines about their concerns over same-sex discrimination – a prospect, the couple explained to Webjet, which made them uncomfortable.

Webjet advised them they could cancel the couple’s flights, costing them more than $2000. Webjet later provided the couple with a full refund.

After reportedly speaking to an “annoyed” advisor who was unaware of Brunei’s discriminatory law changes, the couple spoke to another member of Smartraveller’s staff in a separate call.

Speaking to a different advisor, after the couple requested an “official policy” from Smartraveller – a branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) – the pair were given incredibly insensitive and insubstantial advice.

“If you act heterosexual, you should be fine,” the advisor allegedly said.

In response to the couple’s allegations, a DFAT spokesperson told Travel Weekly: “We respect the privacy of our consular clients, and encourage the complainant to share their concerns directly with the department.”

On 27 March, DFAT updated its travel advice for Brunei, advising travellers that the country’s Sharia penal code would take effect in Brunei from 3 April.

The department has also created travel advice for LGBTI travellers travelling overseas, with links to country-specific travel advisories and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

At a press conference in Penrith, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne addressed concerns over Brunei’s proposed incorporation of Sharia law:

“This is an issue which the government … have taken up with the government of Brunei. We are strong supporters of human rights right across this region and more broadly, including in Brunei,” Senator Payne said.

“We are absolute opponents of the death penalty in all circumstances, so any suggestion that laws would facilitate the application of the death penalty is a matter of concern to Australia.”

“These are communications we will continue to have with our counterparts. I conveyed our views as recently, again, as last week to Erywan, to the Foreign Minister of Brunei, and we will continue to do so. They are matters of some human rights concern.”

Brunei is reportedly the only country in the world that maintains landing rights in Australia, while enshrining laws for the punishment and execution LGBTIQ people.

United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has condemned Brunei’s proposal, describing the revisions as “draconian”, maintaining that they “would enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach international human rights law”.

George Clooney and Elton John join Bachelet in an accumulating list of celebrity and political figures in condemnation of Brunei.

Breaking News

Events

Women in Travel Awards 2019 winners revealed!

The drinks were (and still are) flowing and the gongs were going as Australia’s travel industry honoured the top females working in it at the Women in Travel Awards 2019 in Sydney tonight.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

REVEALED: Winners of Visit California’s STAR shopping spree incentive!

Did you enter Visit California’s recent comp and also happen to be a finalist at the Women in Travel Awards? Well, you could be in for a double dose of good news today!

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

Hotel wrap: Manhattan-inspired hotel coming to Sydney, Chiva-Som to reopen ahead of schedule + MORE

Spend your morning wishing you were staying in a luxury hotel somewhere warm instead of freezing your butt off in Australia? We’ve got you covered.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Did Air New Zealand’s CEO resign to pursue a career in politics?

This story was a great excuse for our designer to see what happens when you Photoshop Christopher Luxon’s head on Jacinda Ardern’s body. Voilà!

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Everything you need to know about Qantas’ biggest-ever frequent flyer overhaul

The airline just pumped $25 million into its loyalty program and, lucky for you, we’ve penned this fabulous explainer. Or typed, rather.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

New ad campaign encourages Melburnians to find ‘Your Happy Space’ in regional Victoria

Travel Weekly’s editor has found his happy place in the office today – in front of a fire he started in his desk bin with a glass of mulled wine and some s’mores.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

STUDY: Agents are more likely to be purpose-led than any other industry

Congrats, agents! You officially give many more effs than any other industry! We knew you had it in you.

Share

CommentComments

Wholesalers

“Unconscious bias needs to be addressed”: Intrepid CEO James Thornton on gender equality in the industry

We chat to Intrepid’s boss about the gender equality challenges still facing the travel industry, and how the tour operator is playing its part in overcoming them.

Share

CommentComments

Road & Rail

Road & rail wrap: Luxe ride across Rajisthan, Eurostar introduces more Netherlands trips + MORE

To celebrate our commuter train arriving 25 minutes late this morning, we’re bringing you this whopper of a wrap direct from platform 17.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

MH17 investigators to lay murder charges

The team of investigators also revealed they have proof the Russian Federation was involved in the tragic crime.

Share

CommentComments

Events

FIVE TICKETS LEFT! The Women in Travel Awards kick off tonight

Tonight’s the night, folks! Get your frocks out, strap on your dancing shoes and get ready to celebrate all the great women in our industry.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon resigns

Christopher Luxon is stepping down from the top job at Air New Zealand amid reports he’s been called up to represent the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup.

Share

CommentComments