The RCGP Fellowship and Awards Committee called unanimously earlier this week for the withdrawal of the Sultan of Brunei's honorary 'companion of the college' title after GPs voiced outrage over laws introduced this month.
The college has confirmed that the RCGP trustee board will now hold an 'extraordinary meeting' to discuss the committee’s recommendation before asking council members for their views.
Laws introduced on 3 April in Brunei make sex between men and adultery punishable by stoning to death. They also make sex between women punishable by 40 strokes of the cane and 10 years in jail.
In a letter to the Sultan, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the laws 'contravene our values and everything that the college stands for'.
Companion of honour
‘We are a diverse and inclusive international organisation that is proud of its strong LGBTQ+ community of doctors and staff. Promoting equality and valuing diversity are central to the professional values of general practice and to the RCGP’s work to encourage, foster and maintain the highest possible standards of patient care for all,’ she wrote.
She added: ‘Laws that persecute and punish individuals on grounds of their sexuality, and which carry sentences such as flogging and death by stoning, are completely contrary to these principles and will create an environment that is inimical to the comprehensive provision of safe, person centred, patient care for all. For these reasons, we oppose such measures in the strongest possible terms.'
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’.
But Professor Stokes-Lampard said laws imposed in Brunei had 'jeopardised this good work,' adding: 'We implore you to revoke these measures as a matter of urgency, or the college will be forced to act on the recommendation of our Fellowship and Awards Committee to rescind our honour to you.'
A petition calling on the college to rescind an honorary ‘companion of the college’ title awarded to the Sultan of Brunei in 2013 has received almost 4,000 signatures.
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.’
Another GP threatened to cancel her RCGP membership if the Sultan was not stripped of his honorary title.
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.