HEAVIER penalties will be imposed on khalwat offenders under the Syariah Penal Code Order in a bid to curb rising cases of close proximity between unmarried couples.
Following the enforcement of the new law on April 22, unmarried Muslim couples who live together or are caught in close proximity will be fined as much as $4,000, face jail term up to a year or both under Section 196. Any non-Muslim involved in khalwat with a Muslim will also face the same punishment.
“We have made the penalties harsher to deter people from committing khalwat,” said deputy Syariah prosecutor Hj Abd Azim Azman Judin yesterday.
While delivering a briefing on the Syariah Penal Code Order, he admitted that khalwat cases are on the rise as the current penalties for the offence were too lenient. Last year, the government reported 106 khalwat cases. Of the 214 individuals involved, 15 were non-Muslims.
Under the soon-to-be repealed Religious Council and Qadi Courts Act, male offenders are fined $1,000 and imprisoned for a month, while female offenders are fined $500 and imprisoned for two weeks.
“The punishments were too lenient, which is why the law was not very effective. I firmly believe that heavier penalties will deter people from committing khalwat,” said the deputy Syariah prosecutor, noting that the act was last amended in 1984.
Addressing members of the Brunei I school zone during the briefing, Hj Abd Azim advised the teachers to discourage their students from committing khalwat.“Whoever is charged in court will have a dim future. Tell your students not to commit any crimes, be it under civil or Syariah law,” he said, adding that a criminal record could mar educational and career prospects.
More than 400 people attended the briefing delivered by legal experts from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office at the Rimba II Primary School.
Brunei is set to implement the Syariah Penal Code Order on April 22, six months after its phased introduction was approved by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on October 22, 2013.
The first phase of the Islamic law will usher in 55 offences that are punishable by fine or imprisonment under the “General Offences” Chapter.
Meanwhile, punishments for serious offences – such as severing of the limb for theft or flogging for adultery – can only be carried out in the second phase, 12 months after the finalisation of the Syariah Courts Criminal Procedure Court (CPC) Order.
Phase three, which includes the death penalty, will then take place 24 months after the Syariah CPC Order has been executed.
The Brunei Times
Sunday, March 30, 2014