Citation to delivered by Professor Carol Tan, Head of the School of Law, SOAS University of London, graduation ceremony 24th July 2019

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen and colleagues, it is an honour to present to you Nursyahbani Katjasungkana.

Nursyahbani is a prominent Indonesian feminist human rights lawyer and activist.

Born in Jakarta, Nursyahbani graduated in 1978 with a bachelor degree in Law from Universitas Airlangga. Her initial specialisation was Criminal Law. She also holds a postgraduate diploma in International Comparative Sexual Orientation Law from Leiden University.

She has authored and co-authored books and articles on sexual violence against women, family law, gender and the state, Asian feminisms, and religious fundamentalism amongst other topics.

Her published writings mirror her activism in the area of Domestic Violence, Women’s and LGBTIQ rights,  nationality, and other laws in Indonesia. She founded APIK (Asosiasi Perempuan Indonesia Untuk Keadilan/the Women’s Association for Justice) and established LBH (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum/Legal Aid Board and an arm of APIK) in 16 provinces throughout Indonesia. She was also the founder and Executive Director of Solidaritas Perempuan (or Women’s Solidarity) between 1993-1995. In addition, in the years 1998 to 2003, she was founder and the first Secretary General of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy, a well known women’s mass organisation  working on the subject of women and politics . These organisations are critical to the effort to advance the rights of women.

In 2015, Nur became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ardhanary Institute, an organisation whose vision is equality and justice for LGBT Indonesians and which works chiefly through public education and policy reform.

Last year, Nursyahbani was amongst 5 leading persons to be appointed to the Anti-Corruption Committee, a new committee of Jakarta’s Gubernatorial team for Expediting Development.

Long before that, in 1999, Nur was selected as a Member of the People’s Consultative Assembly and from 2004 till 2009 she was a Member of Parliament.

Amongst her contributions to public consciousness regarding human rights violations is her continuing work in search of recognition and justice for those who suffered in the atrocities committed during the period from 1965-1967, a period that the Indonesian state has yet to acknowledge. Not surprisingly it remains little known amongst the younger generation of Indonesians. Mass killings, of an estimated at 4-500,000 people, were perpetrated by the state to annihilate the Indonesian Communist Party and other activists. Nursyahbani led and coordinated the efforts to initiate IPT 65 (International People’s Tribunal on the 1965 Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia), convened in The Hague in 2015. The Tribunal was to find that crimes against humanity were committed by the Indonesian state, and that the USA, the United Kingdom and Australia were complicit. This genocide, to quote the tribunal, “must be included among the major genocides of the 20th century.”

Nur continues to work tirelessly, including conducting human rights training in West Papua, an area that has seen unspeakable inter-ethnic violence and human rights abuses.

It is clear that Nur has devoted her adult life to the cause of human rights. To the many first and subsequent generations of Human Rights Law university lecturers in Indonesia – amongst them the current leaders of SEPAHAM (Indonesian union of Human Rights Law Lecturers), Nursyahbani is ‘Ibu Nur’, held in their affection and esteem in equal measure.

Her academic writing, advocacy and activism is an inspiration to all of us in the SOAS family. We honour her many achievements, but one thread that runs through her work and life that especially draws Nur and SOAS together is that in Nur, the privilege of knowledge is combined with practice and the courage to make a difference.

Madam President, it is my privilege now to present Nursyahbani Katjasungkana for the award of Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) of the School, and to invite her to address this assembly.

SOAS University of London is a specialist institution offering courses on the social sciences, humanities and languages. Its School of Law specialises in Human Rights Law, International Law, Islamic Law and Environmental Law.


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