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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.