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GPs go forth

RCGP urged to remove Sultan of Brunei's honorary title over gay rights stance

A petition urging RCGP to rescind the honorary title awarded to the Sultan of Brunei due to the country making gay sex punishable by death has gained over 2,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

The RCGP has responded to say it is 'reviewing the situation'.

While homosexuality was already illegal in the south-east Asian country, entailing up to a decade of imprisonment, the full Sharia penal code was implemented this week. Lesbian sex also includes a punishment of 40 strokes of the cane.

RCGP named the Sultan of Brunei a ‘Companion of the College’ in January 2013, but are now facing growing pressures to revoke this. 

The Change.Org petition started by GP trainee Dr Hollie Rolland urged the College to ‘immediately rescind the honorary title’ and ‘condemn the Sultan of Brunei for his support of these horrific human rights violations.’

The petition has received a significant amount of support across social media, with GPs commenting 'should the college not rescind his title, I will cancel my membership’ and ‘I’m a doctor and humanist. Religious and sexual freedoms are well-established human rights. The UK Royal medical colleges and Universities have a duty of care to publicly stand up for human rights over their financial interests.’

In 2014, RCGP was also heavily criticised for refusing to revoke the Sultan’s title. At this time, they claimed that he is ‘committed to raising healthcare standards in his country’.

Yesterday, an RCGP spokesperson said: ‘The College will be reviewing the situation in light of emerging developments and in no way condones any abuses of human rights in the UK or abroad.

We are an organsiation committed to raising standards of healthcare for patients all over the world, and to this end have had a formal collaboration with Brunei for more than ten years supporting the development of primary care and the training of GPs in the country.’

RCGP have today issued a further statement: 'We fully understand and appreciate the concerns of our members and the strength of feeling on this issue.

The College is an inclusive organisation that thrives on its diversity and believes in equality for all.

We abhor any abuse of human rights and categorically condemn the recent developments in Brunei. We wish to reassure our GP members, our staff, and all other organisations who work with us, that this is being discussed with urgency at the highest levels of the College.

It is in all our interests that we reach a speedy resolution, but it is imperative that we work with other organisations, not least the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to ensure that any decision does not compromise our colleagues working in Brunei or the work that the College is doing there to improve the care of patients.'

The family of the Sultan, who is also the Prime Minister, have ruled Brunei for over 600 years, and he has received various honours in the UK, including a knighthood from the Queen and an Honorary Doctorate from universities including Oxford and King’s College London, both of whom are also under pressure to revoke the title.

RCGP’s Equality and Diversity statement shares their focus on ‘respecting diversity’, ‘working with others’ and reviewing ‘all College policies and processes to ensure fairness and equity.’

They also previously produced guidelines to support with the care of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.


Readers' comments (16)

  • Cobblers

    Yep I'm sure the Sultan will not be sleeping tonight through worry that the RCGP will do this.

    Seriously if it worries you that much JFDI! Stop getting involved in "gesture politics" by letting us all know how righteous you are.

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  • The fetid stench of money hangs over this one.

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  • Can't imagine the Sultan wearing a scruffy tweed jacket with leather elbow patches so perhaps he should voluntarily reconsider his position on sartorial grounds.

    In all seriousness though, while not being a fan of protest politics, the policy of stoning gay men to death isn't consistent with the honorary position bestowed on him.

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  • Vinci Ho

    It is going to be interesting how the college will respond. As an always-non-member of the college , I couldn’t care less , in fact .
    But if I put myself in the shoes of Helen , I can feel that ‘damned you do , damned you don’t’ looming .
    Question is why historically , this type of hypocrisy- honorary awarding , was allowed to happen in the first place . It was only meaningful if the receipient was sharing the same ‘universal values’ as the institute granting the award . Otherwise, this is merely a totem of political diplomacy. And RCGP is not supposed to be a political institution(, is it?)
    Well , maybe I should bring back my old slogan,’ it is a fine line between politically correct diplomacy and dangerously flawed hipocrisy.’

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  • Vinci Ho

    And Helen , when you think about the question of what should be ‘justified’, I dedicate this to you :

    ‘’Arguments about justice and rights are often arguments about the purpose, or telos, of a social institution, which in turn reflect competing notions of the virtues the institution should reward and honour .’’
    Michael J Sandel on Aristotle's ideology

    Make up your mind ........

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    As a past RCGP council rep, I raised concerns at the time 2013/14 when then President Iona Heath travelled to Brunei to meet with the Sultan of Brunei for a £1 million donation to the RCGP to fund the costs of the auditorium. I made it clear to the RCGP Chair that Brunei stoned homosexuals and that gay GPs would object to both the donation and receiving their MRCGP diplomas in an auditorium funded by him. How would they feel if they put his name on the auditorium door? He was given the title of Honorary Companion of the RCGP for his £1 million donation and the RCGP accepted his money in full knowledge of his country's barbaric treatment of gays.

    I don't envision the RCGP returning the £1 million donation in order to rescind his honorary title.

    I am only surprised it has taken 5 years for the lgbt medical community to object to the RCGP's actions.

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  • They need to give the money back, otherwise it's nothing but platitudes. The RCGP are experts at platitudes.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    Correction it was 2012 and not 2013/14 when President Iona Heath visited Brunei and I objected to the RCGP acceptance of the Sultan's £1 million donation to cover the building costs of the auditorium. The RCGP auditorium is even called the Brunei auditorium! How many lgbt GPs had to sit in this Brunei auditorium during their MRCGP diploma ceremonies? It makes my stomach turn to think this room was funded by a country stoning gays to death. Surely the RCGP could find a more ethical donor?

    Yes @Stelvio, the ethical and moral action would be to return the £1 million, rename the RCGP auditorium and remove the title. From my years on council, I would not bet on the RCGP returning his donation.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Well said, Una.

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  • doctordog.

    Not only ineffective and irrelevant, but now corrupt and in bed with despots.
    So glad I’m not a member.

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