Comfort Women (Troostmeisjes)


Comfort Women (Troostmeisjes)

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
(William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun)

Raping women seems to be a normal byproduct of wars. During World War II, the Japanese military even set up a system for sex slavery: Tens of thousands of “comfort women” in Asia were forced into prostitution at military brothels. In addition, many girls were abused sexually in railroad wagons, factory warehouses or night after night at home. Most of these women have suffered physical and emotional consequences ever since. Photographer Jan Banning and writer Hilde Janssen visited Indonesian women who during the war were victims of forced sexual labor. In the exhibition, 18 of them break the persistent taboo against speaking out on the issue, thereby painting a gripping picture of this hidden history.

FOR THE PHOTO BOOK, click here.

Film director Frank van Osch followed Jan and Hilde to Indonesia to create a documentary about their search for “comfort” women. The documentary, Because We Were Beautiful, is available in Dutch with English subtitles from VanOsch Film Produkties.

Hilde Janssen (b. 1959) is a journalist and anthropologist. For the past 15 years, she has lived and worked in Asia. From her base in Jakarta, Janssen traveled the Indonesian archipelago for two years searching for comfort women. For her book “Schaamte en onschuld” (in Dutch), click here.


The project Comfort Women and the exhibition by the same name have been made possible with financial support from the Mondriaan Fund and the V-Fonds. Additional support for this publication was provided by the Fonds BKVBFoundation Sem Presser Archief and the NLPVF.

Book and exhibition have been made possible with financial support from the Mondriaan Foundation and the V-Fonds. Additional support for the publication was provided by the Fonds BKVB, Foundation Sem Presser and the NLPVF.


Hilde Janssen, Shame and Innocence
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