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Population Size:


Number of People Experiencing Domestic Abuse Each Year:

No research.

Cost of Domestic Abuse to the Economy Each Year:

No research.

Estimated % Change due to COVID-19:

No research.

Current Law and Policy:

Brunei has shown little interest in reforming its inadequate legislative approach to domestic violence. In fact, the country actually took a step backwards in 2019, when it introduced a new Penal Code that further discriminates against women. Deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes concerning women’s roles and responsibilities have led to an unequal society in Brunei. This is reflected in women’s academic and professional choices, limited participation in political and public life and subordinate position both at work and home. These stereotypes have also led to domestic violence against women being widespread and accepted across the country. Brunei lacks any specific domestic violence legislation; instead, perpetrators are arrested under the Women and Girls Protection Act of 1972.

In 2014, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (‘CEDAW’) expressed its concerns regarding the absence of any specific legislation on the issue of domestic violence in Brunei, the fact that women rarely report such violence and the lack of statistical data on such, marital rape not being criminalised, and the low number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators of domestic violence. CEDAW also noted that women in Brunei “are disproportionately affected by punishment for ‘crimes’ involving sex, and are at a higher risk of being convicted of adultery and extramarital relations, owing to discriminatory investigative policies and provisions on the weighing of evidence.” CEDAW urged Brunei to adopt specific legislation that criminalises all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence and marital rape, and to do so within a clear timeframe. It also recommended that the penal code be amended to criminalise marital rape, support services for victims of domestic violence be strengthened and gender-sensitive training be provided to the judiciary, law enforcement officers and health professionals.

However, Brunei has made little progress concerning these recommendations. The country still lacks targeted domestic violence legislation and has failed to criminalise marital rape. In 2019, a new penal code even came into effect (‘The Syariah Penal Code’) [2], however, it further discriminates against women and girls. The Code punishes extramarital sex and imposes death by stoning as punishment. Moreover, the narrow evidentiary standards required to prove rape might also discourage rape victims from going to the authorities, as they might be accused of ‘zina’ (or false accusations). Since its introduction of the Code in 2019, Brunei has been in a state of contravening its own legal obligations to ensure equality before the law and to eliminate discrimination against women.

Frontline Services:



[1] Worldometer, “Brunei Population (Live)”, (

[2] HRW, “Brunei’s Pernicious New Penal Code”, (, 22 May 2019).

Further Reading

[1] United States Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004 – Brunei”, (2005), Report Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

[2] UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, “Concluding Observations on the Combined Initial and Second Periodic Reports of Brunei Darussalam”, (2014), Report CEDAW/C/BRN/CO/1-2.

[3] UN Nations General Assembly, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Brunei Darussalam”, (2014), Report of the Twenty-Seventh Session of the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/27/11, Agenda Item 6.



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