RCGP to 'review' Brunei links amid anger over anti-LGBT laws

The RCGP is reviewing its longstanding 'formal collaboration' with Brunei as GPs voice outrage over new anti-LGBT laws that make sex between men and adultery punishable by stoning to death.

RCGP Brunei links under review (Photo: Pete Hill)
RCGP Brunei links under review (Photo: Pete Hill)

The laws, which came into force in Brunei on 3 April and have sparked international condemnation, also make lesbian sex punishable by 40 strokes of the cane and 10 years in jail.

In a statement published on 4 April the college said it ‘in no way condones any abuses of human rights in the UK or abroad’ and said it would be reviewing its links with Brunei ‘in light of emerging developments’.

A petition calling on the college to rescind an honorary ‘companion of the college’ title awarded to the Sultan of Brunei in 2013 received more than 2,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

LGBT work undermined

GPs across the UK took to social media urging the RCGP to take action. One GP trainer, London GP Dr Richard Ma, wrote on Twitter that a failure to rescind the honorary title would undo all the work the that had been done to make the college LGBT-friendly.

The Sultan - whose name is Hassanal Bolkiah - became the first recipient of the RCGP companion of honour award in recognition of the work he had done to ‘promote healthcare in Brunei and abroad’.

One doctor who signed the Change.org petition wrote: ‘I’m a doctor and a 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.’

RCGP Brunei statement

Another GP threatened to cancel her RCGP membership if the Sultan was not stripped of his honorary title.

The RCGP statement in full reads: ‘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 organisation 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 First5 committee chair Dr Jodie Blackadder-Weinstein said on Twitter that discussions within the college on these issues were ongoing.

The college has since released a second statement, published on 5 April. It reads: '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 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.'

According to the BBC, the new laws have been implemented in a bid to promote stronger Islamic teachings. Muslims make up about two-thirds of Brunei's population of 420,000. Brunei has retained the death penalty but has not carried out an execution since 1957.

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