When Doctors Harm | Challenging Harmful Practices

We prevent health professionals from taking part in unscientific practices masquerading as medicine.

Countering “virginity testing,” anal examinations, and intersex surgery

Around the world, medical professionals participate in practices that, while common in their societies, have no scientific validity and can cause significant physical and psychological harm.

In cultures that prize virginity, hymen examinations are widely performed to determine a woman’s sexual history – in Afghanistan, a failed “virginity test” can result in a woman being jailed for adultery. In many countries where consensual anal intercourse is considered a criminal act, men suspected of being homosexuals can be forced to undergo painful anal examinations.

PHR works to abolish these unscientific, harmful practices and supports medical professionals who refuse to participate in them.

PHR also advocates for an end to medically unnecessary surgery on the sex organs of intersex children – children born with atypical sex characteristics – until the child is old enough to participate meaningfully in decisions about their body and health.

Upholding health and human rights

Medical professionals, with their skills and ethical duties, are often on the front lines when human rights are violated. Whether treating civilian casualties of war, dealing with prisoners’ injuries, or attending to protesters hurt by police wielding crowd-control weapons, clinicians have a duty not only to relieve suffering, but also to advocate for and promote human rights so that their patients can live in a healthy world.

PHR believes that silence in the face of human rights violations is equal to complicity. We train health professionals to identify and document abuse. We push medical associations to take a public stand against abusive practices. And we work to change laws so that all people can live in health and with their rights.

Our Work

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