This is an important new book that untangles the history of enforced military prostitution in Indonesia that occurred during the Japanese military occupation of South-East Asia in World War II. While activist movements have sought redress and recognition for survivors of this system, frequently euphemised as ‘comfort women’, Indonesian survivors—along with the history of this brutal system in Indonesia—have been largely overlooked.

Author Professor Kate McGregor gives careful attention to the historical, social, and political conditions surrounding sexual violence in Indonesia. Through comprehensive research and archival diligence she uncovers a critical piece of Indonesian history and the ongoing efforts to bring it to public attention, dealing with the violence and exploitation of Indonesian women and girls and the ensuing shame and silencing sustained under successive regimes to the present day. Her work also establishes the surrounding complexities of transnational activism and geopolitics, the international relationships and personal networks, linguistic differences, and cultural challenges that shape responses and understanding.

Katharine E. McGregor is Professor of Southeast Asian history in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne and a 2023 Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Her book is part of University of Wisconsin Press’ Critical Human Rights series edited by Scott Straus and Tyrell Haberkorn, and Steve J. Stern, Editor Emeritus. This interdisciplinary series publishes empirically grounded and theoretically innovative work seeking new and more nuanced ways to conceptualise and examine human rights.