Sultan of Brunei stripped of RCGP honours

Author: Mark Gould
Sultan of Brunei stripped of RCGP honours

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has revoked an honour given to the Sultan of Brunei, following the introduction of "abhorrent" sanctions against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people in his country.

Brunei has implemented Sharia law making gay sex punishable by death. While homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei, punishable by up to a decade of imprisonment, the full Sharia penal code was implemented amid widespread condemnation last month. Lesbian sex also includes a punishment of 40 strokes of the cane.

A petition launched by trainee GP Dr Hollie Rolland urging the RCGP to rescind the "Companion of the College" honour awarded to the Sultan of Brunei in 2013 gained thousands of signatures within days.

An extraordinary meeting of the College's Trustee Board yesterday voted unanimously to withdraw the "Companion of the College" honour.

The decision also includes the removal of the word "Brunei" from the name of the auditorium at the College's headquarters 30 Euston Square, with immediate effect.

Professor Nigel Mathers, chair of the Trustee Board, said: "The fact that we convened an extraordinary meeting of Trustees shows how seriously the College is taking this issue.

"We can confirm that robust governance procedures have been followed and that the decision of the Trustee Board was unanimous on the withdrawal of the honour and on the decision over the name of the auditorium."

College chair, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, wrote to the Sultan last week, urging him to reverse the laws that carry penalties including stoning and flogging to death on the grounds of sexuality.

She said: "Persecuting or punishing people based on their sexuality is completely unacceptable, and completely contravenes everything that the College stands for.

"This has been an incredibly upsetting time for everyone - not least for our wonderful LGBTQ+ community of doctors, staff, and patients.

"Our College honour was given in good faith but the recent events in Brunei have left us with no choice but to take action.

"I know it has been frustrating for many of our members while we worked to find a solution, so thank you for bearing with us while we went through our due processes.

"The College is nothing without our dedicated and committed members and staff, and we are proud to be a diverse and inclusive College that believes in equality for all."

A regular meeting of the Trustee Board will meet next week to discuss issues brought to the fore by the Brunei developments, including the donation given to the College by the Sultan of Brunei, and the College's future work in countries with repressive regimes and its support for international human rights.