Added: April 8, 2017 – Last updated: April 8, 2017


Speaker: Katherine McGregor

Title: Mardiyem and Joint Japanese Indonesian Activism for Indonesian Survivors of the System of Enforced Japanese Military Prostitution during the Pacific War

Subtitle: -

Conference: 17th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities (June 1-4, 2017)

Session: 1361: Critical Reflections on Transnational Activism for Survivors of the Japanese Military's War-time System of Sexual Slavery

Place: Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, United States

Date: June 1, 2017

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | Asian History: Indonesian History, Japanese History | Types: Forced Prostitution / Indonesian "Comfort Women"; Types: Wartime Sexual Violence / Asia-Pacific War


Link: -


Speaker: Kate McGregor, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of

Abstract: »Activism for Indonesian survivors of the system of enforced military prostitution from the beginning was strongly supported if not sustained by Japanese lawyers and activists who felt compelled to take responsibility for harms inflicted by the Japanese military during the Pacific War. It was through these networks that the Indonesian survivor Mardiyem (1929-2007) gave testimony in Indonesia and abroad especially in Japan including her participation in the 2000 Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery. Due to her willingness to speak out, her sharp memory and her particularly harrowing story of being forced to undergo an abortion at five months, Mardiyem became the most famous Indonesian survivor through media exposure and publication of her memoir. She also gained some attention in Japan. In 2001, for example, a young Japanese filmmaker made a film about Mardiyem documenting her moving journey back to the location of her war time detention on Borneo island as well as her journey to Japan to take part in the tribunal.
Using these sources along with interviews with activists who worked with Mardiyem, I offer some critical reflections on Mardiyem’s experiences of becoming a transnational activist for this cause. I examine how this activism, including her visits to Japan, shaped her and how she negotiated the limited support for her cause domestically in Indonesia combined with strong support from transnational activist networks. I pay careful attention to Mardiyem’s reflections on her activism.« (Source: Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities website)

Wikipedia: History of Asia: History of Indonesia / Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies | History of Asia: History of Japan / Shōwa period | Prostitution: Forced prostitution / Comfort women | Sex and the law: Wartime sexual violence | War: Pacific War / Japanese war crimes