Nursyahbani Katjasungkana (born 1956) is a feminist lawyer and advocate of women’s human rights. In 1995, she founded the Women’s Association for Justice (APIK) and established the Women’s Legal Aid institution in Jakarta, the members of which were initially recruited from among former clients and survivors and trained as paralegals. During the 1998 reformation, along with several other women activists, Nursyahbani founded the Indonesian Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy, the first mass-based women’s organization in the country since 1965, and was elected its first Secretary General.
When Nursyahbani Katjasungkana began her career as a lawyer and director of Jakarta Women's Legal Aid in 1987, the profession was a male dominated field and expressions like "women’s rights", "feminism" and "violence against women" were not part of the language. But early on, the young lawyer was aware of the poor legal status of Indonesian women and women’s rights. This led her to found the Women’s Association for Justice (APIK) and the Women’s Legal Aid of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (LBH APIK) in 1995. Nursyahbani believes that through what she calls "transformative legal aid", the law can be reformed to serve the interests of women. Running a legal aid institution for women, Nursyahbani has learned that a client’s dependence on her lawyer is not beneficial to a community and that a community needs to develop its own support system. This is why LBH APIK is founded on the fundamental principle of community-based legal aid, where ex-clients and survivors are trained to be paralegals and are in turn expected to transfer their skills and knowledge to the community. Nursyahbani explains: "LBH APIK uses legal cases as an entry point to see how existing laws serve women. If it is found that the law is not responsive (to the needs of women), then we will carry out policy advocacy to change the law." She adds, "We use these cases as a ‘radar’ to monitor how the system works." As a feminist lawyer, Nursyahbani recognizes the vital role of the community in the process of legal transformation. She envisions an "alternative legal system that is bottom-up" through community empowerment. In her vision, "legal reform from the perspective of the people" underlies the transformative legal change that will help achieve women’s equality.
Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia Women’s Association for Justice (APIK) Women’s Legal Aid of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (LBH APIK)