An extraordinary meeting of the college’s trustee board today voted unanimously to withdraw the ‘companion of the college’ honour, which it awarded the Sultan in 2013. The college will also remove the word ‘Brunei’ from the name of the auditorium at the RCGP headquarters in London with immediate effect.
The trustee board will meet again next week at its regular meeting to discuss the donation the Sultan of Brunei gave to the college as part of its fundraising appeal before it moved into its new headquarters in Euston Square, London in 2013. It will also discuss the college's future work in countries with repressive regimes.
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.
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’. However there was an outcry from GPs about the link between the college and the Sultan when the new laws came into effect, and a petition calling on the college to rescind the honorary title has received almost 4,000 signatures.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard wrote to the Sultan of Brunei last week calling on him to reverse the laws that punish people on the grounds of their sexuality.
Following today’s decision 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.'
Professor Nigel Mathers, chair of the RCGP 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.'