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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI professor's research shines a light into some of the darkest corners around the globe

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

New course will explore issues of sexual exploitation of women

KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 18, 2005 -- Trafficking, slavery, sexual exploitation and violence against women and children are just some of the topics that University of Rhode Island Women's Studies Professor Donna Hughes has focused on in her research. And she has not been quiet with what she has found.

A prolific writer and speaker, Hughes has testified before Congress, presented at the United Nations and numerous conferences worldwide and her work has helped to shape national and international policies on the global issues of trafficking and exploitation of women and children. Most recently, her work directly contributed to the human rights policy statements on prostitution, sexual slavery, and trafficking that were announced last month by the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

"I always do my research with consideration of how it might influence law and policy." Hughes said about her work.

Now the Women's Studies professor has created an online course that she hopes gives students an opportunity to learn more about this important, but until recently, little-understood form of violence against women.

"It is an area that is fast evolving on the international human rights agenda," she explained. The class is being taught for the first time on this specific topic for which Hughes is renowned, and for the first time online.

Women's Studies 350, entitled "Sex Trafficking," focuses on the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls and its impact on their health, rights and status in society. The contributing roles of male privilege, the media, organized crime, corruption, and the state will be examined.

The class will review the historic and contemporary international anti-sex trafficking movements, and the debates about defining trafficking, the nature of prostitution, and approaches to controlling sexually transmitted diseases. Approaches to reducing sex trafficking and providing assistance to victims will be reviewed.

Hughes has outlined materials to be used for the course that include testimonies by survivors, biographies, theoretical essays, research findings, policy statements, expert testimonies, and legislation.

Hughes, who holds the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair in Women's Studies, joined the University in 1996. She has extensive teaching experience in women's studies and was previously a faculty member at the University of Bradford in England.

Her research has been supported by 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.

Please Note: While this class is now full, Professor Hughes plans to teach the course again in the Fall 2005.