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Jan Banning –Sexual slaves


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 this exhibition, 18 of them break the persistent taboo against speaking out on the issue, thereby painting a gripping picture of this hidden history.

About these comfort women and the search for them by Jan Banning and Hilde Janssen, film director Frank van Osch made the documentary (with Dutch and English subtitles) “Because we were beautiful”, which is available on DVD from Frank van Osch (

Jan Banning was born in The Netherlands in 1954, from Dutch-East-Indies immigrant parents. He studied social and economic history at the University of Nijmegen and has been working as a photographer since 1981.

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.

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.

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