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Meet the expert: Hoko Horii

One year ago, Dr. Hoko Horii, finished her PhD at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and the Van Vollenhoven Institute, on Child Marriage practice in Indonesia. LeidenGlobal spoke with Horii on how she got there and what the future holds.

Hoko Horii first thought she would become a lawyer and started majoring in Law, in Japan. However, she soon realised she couldn’t get interested in the doctrinal study of Law and participated in a couple of development projects abroad. For one of those projects she went to Jakarta to work on environmental conservation. In Indonesia she developed a special interest in the country, where the legal system is very different from what she had seen so far. “In Japan Law is Law” she explains, “but in Indonesia it is accepted that there is not only the state Law, but there is also customary Law, which may be even more important in people’s lives”. To achieve legal goals, you need to know how to reach people; you need to understand the society for Law to make impact.

With these newly found interests, she started her doctoral research on child marriages in Indonesia. In western countries there is a general assumption that all child marriages are between old men and young girls. Before starting her research Horii had this idea as well. She was surprised to learn that this is usually not the case. Most child marriages are between minors who have chosen to get married themselves. This decision is often based upon an unplanned pregnancy. As premarital sex is not allowed in Indonesia’s customary law, marriage is the only solution to continue their lives in their community. Religious or customary Law are thus favoured over state and international Law. One of the most important conclusions Horii draws of her research is that more dialogue and incorporation of diversity is necessary in international Human Rights Law. For this doctoral research, she received prize money that she intends to use for a workshop in Bali on productive health education, to give something back to the community.

Horii is currently in Japan, working on her next research on the age of consent Law. As part of her research she is volunteering at a shelter for teenagers and working as a conversational partner for youngsters with mental and practical health problems: she enjoys helping others, regardless of her research intentions. Besides that, she is finishing a book about her dissertation, which she expects to publish later this year.


Interview by LeidenGlobal intern Nikki Schotman

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