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Donna M. Hughes

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Donna M. Hughes

Donna M. Hughes
Born 1954
Nationality American
Fields Women's studies
Institutions University of Rhode Island, Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair, Women's Studies Program
University of Bradford
Pennsylvania State University
Alma mater Pennsylvania State University (Ph.D., Genetics, 1990)
Known for Research and writing on human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and sexual slavery

Donna M. Hughes (born 1954) is a [2]


Hughes was raised on a farm in central Pennsylvania. She later attended Pennsylvania State University, earning degrees in animal science before earning a PhD in genetics in 1990.[3]

While a student, she started volunteering at a rape crisis center and battered women’s shelter. For several years, she staffed the abuse hotline and co-facilitated support groups for adult survivors of child sexual abuse. During this time, she started to read feminist analyses of violence against women, particularly sexual violence and exploitation. Hughes writes that she began to feel emotional and cognitive dissonance between her scientific studies and the feminist activist work she was doing. Initially an instructor in both genetics and women's studies, an increasingly critical view of what she felt was the disconnected nature of science led her to focus on women's studies.[3]

Hughes later served as a lecturer on women's studies at University of Bradford, UK, between 1994 and 1996, before moving on to a full professorship at University of Rhode Island, where she holds the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair in Women's Studies. She has also served as Education and Research Coordinator for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.[4]

Hughes is a co-founder with Melanie Shapiro of Citizens Against Trafficking.

Research, Teaching, and Scholarship

Hughes is a leading international researcher on human trafficking. She has completed research on the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation in several countries, including the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Korea. She does research and writing on women's rights. Her topic areas include: violence, slavery, sexual exploitation, Islamic fundamentalism, and women's organized resistance to violence and exploitation. She has also worked on issues related to women, science and technology.

Additionally, she was the first to publish research and analysis on the role of the Internet in facilitating sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls, and on the mail-order bride industry. She has also written extensively on women's rights in the Islamic world. Hughes has also published several articles on the role of women in science and technology.[1][3]

Her research has been supported by the U.S. State Department, the National Institute of Justice, the National Science Foundation, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the International Organization for Migration, the Council of Europe, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, University of Rhode Island Foundation, the University of Rhode Island Council for Research, and the University of Bradford, UK.


December 2010 Josephine Butler Award, Norma Hotaling Award for “challenging the status quo and creating new abolitionist policy or approach to sex trafficking in the United States”
May 2010 University of Rhode Island Annual Research Award
November 2009 Invited to the Rhode Island State House to witness Governor Carcieri sign the Act Relating to Criminal Offenses-Prostitution and Lewdness
December 2008 Invited to the White House to witness the signing of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.
January 2005 Invited to the White House to witness the signing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005
June 2003 Invited to the White House to witness the signing of the PROTECT Act
2002 Outstanding Outreach Award for International Networking on Trafficking in Women, Vice Provost’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies, University of Rhode Island
1999-2000 Teaching Fellow, University of Rhode Island
1997 Technology and Teaching Fellow, University of Rhode Island
1987 Special recognition for service provided to victims of sexual assault, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Pennsylvania

Activism and views

She is one of the leading advocates of the “abolitionist” view on human trafficking and sexual exploitation. She is seen by many as a key figure linking the feminist and social conservative movements against sexual exploitation and all forms of human trafficking.[5][6] Hughes has received criticism from sex workers' rights activists[7] for her view that laws against sexual exploitation are necessary to combat human trafficking and sexual slavery,[8] and what many see as personal attacks against other academics and activists who support decriminalization of prostitution.[9][10][11][12][13]

Hughes actively fought against government funding for HIV prevention programs that supplied condoms to sex workers. In 2002 she went before the House Committee on International Relations to report several harm-reduction programs that had received US funding, carried out by NGOs such as [15] Due to her conflation of all forms of prostitution with sex slavery, the changes she helped to bring about applied even to harm reduction programs that worked with under-served women in prostitution.[16]

Hughes, in her efforts against sex trafficking and prostitution, has received support from [17]

Prostitution in Rhode Island controversy

From 2006-2009, Hughes was a leading figure in the campaign to end the decriminalized status of indoor prostitution in Rhode Island,[9][18][19] so that police could conduct anti-sex trafficking investigations. She is a founding member of the Rhode Island group, Citizens Against Trafficking (CAT) in 2009. The initial legislative battles over indoor prostitution are documented in the 2009 documentary film Happy Endings?, in which Hughes appears, speaking at a community forum on human trafficking and testifying before the state legislature to change the prostitution law.[20]

In September 2009, Hughes wrote several opinion pieces in the Providence Journal supporting a version of the legislation with stronger penalties for prostitution and taking the Rhode Island State Senate to task for what she viewed as its de facto support for continuing decriminalization of prostitution.[9][21] This version of the bill was signed into law in November 2009.[22] Several Rhode Island State Senators wrote editorials disputing Hughes claim that they had kept indoor prostitution legal, with Senator Charles Levesque taking Hughes to task for, in his view, providing a highly distorted reading of the legislation passed by the RI Senate.[23][24]

Soon after the Rhode Island prostitution law hearings, Hughes was involved in a controversy surrounding the opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH), a Megan Andelloux, a sex educator who had testified before the Rhode Island Senate in opposition to criminalizing indoor prostitution. Supporters of Andelloux claim that in September 2009, the opening of the CSPH was blocked after an email was sent by Hughes to Pawtucket city council members (stating, "Hello, A center for 'sexual rights' and 'sexual pleasure' is opening in Pawtucket"),[25][26][27][28] also citing remarks made about Andelloux in an earlier Providence Journal editorial by Hughes,[9][10][11][28] as well as in a bulletin on the Citizens Against Trafficking website.[28][29] A 6-month zoning battle followed with the city of Pawtucket; the CSPH was eventually allowed to open in early 2010.[28]

A March 2010 editorial in the Providence Journal stated that Hughes and Citizens Against Trafficking co-founder Melanie Shapiro have faced threatening remarks on various internet forums from patrons of massage parlors in retaliation for their role in banning indoor prostitution in Rhode Island.[30]

Selected bibliography


Chapters in books


She contributed the piece "Changing a Masculinist Culture: Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology" to the 2003 anthology [31]


  1. ^ a b Donna Hughes (faculty page), University of Rhode Island.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c (Archived at Donna M. Hughes faculty website,
  4. ^ p 422.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^
  7. ^ Sex Worker Awareness [2] Women Studies Professor isn't listening to Women
  8. ^ D Hughes. Senators’ prostitution bill is a sham Providence Journal, September 4, 2009
  9. ^ a b c d D Hughes. R.I's carnival of prostitution. Providence Journal, June 24, 2009.
  10. ^ a b M Andelloux. Professor's name calling of sex workers. Providence Journal, June 25, 2009.
  11. ^ a b M. Lawrence. URI Women’s Studies Professor Horrified By Tattooed Women. Providence Daily Dose, June 25, 2009.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Senator's Prostitution Bill A Sham.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b c d
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^

External links

  • Donna M. Hughes, University of Rhode Island (Faculty page and publications)
  • Donna M. Hughes publications list at National Review Online
  • [4] Citizens Against Trafficking Bulletins
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