The criminalization of Tibetan women and nuns in Asia’s borderlands

There is an increasing body of research examining the Tibetan experience in exiled communities, and within the parameters of the Tibetan Autonomous Region; however, the experience of Tibetan refugees on the border remains unknown. Despite allegations of arbitrary border control practices, and criminalizing monitoring policies, the borders in the Tibet-Nepal region have been neglected in contemporary criminological inquiry.

The limited evidence suggests that Tibetan refugees face physical and sexual abuse, beatings, detention and repatriation if caught on the Nepal border. While these experiences are not uncommon in other contentious border regions around the world, the cultural, historical and political context creates a complex situation for Tibetan refugees to navigate. It is in this context that borders, human rights and gender become potentially influential factors on border experiences in this region.

The Tibetan border presents an opportunity to challenge the current perceptions about the way that Tibetans, and Tibetan women more specifically experience the border. While the experience of migrant and refugee women on borders is increasingly the focus of criminological inquiry, the limited available evidence suggests that Tibetan women have different experiences as a result of their religious, cultural and political context. As Barnett (2003) suggested, it is not that the history or experiences of Tibetan women are non-existent; rather it is the specific history of persecution and intricate border experiences that are unknown.

This research proposes to document the experiences of Tibetan refugees on the Nepal border, with a specific focus on the experience of Tibetan women and Buddhist nuns. It will examine the narrative of Tibetan experiences within the current political context to assess the impact, if any, that the relationship between Nepal and China and subsequent border policies has on their experiences.

Project Updates

  • Climbing the mountains of India whilst conducting her fieldwork, BOb’s Bodean Hedwards is not sticking to the beaten paths with her research on ‘The criminalisation of Tibetan women and nuns in Asia’s borderlands’. Speaking to Tibetan women, men, and nuns who were involved in political activities and imprisoned, she has found many fled in fear ... Read more
  • Fieldwork for the Criminalization of Tibetan women and nuns in Asia’s borderlands project is planned for late 2013, subject to ethics approval. Fieldwork will involve conducting semi-structured interviews with Tibetan migrants and refugees currently residing in communities in exile in India and Nepal.  This research was commenced by Bodean Hedwards as a part-time PhD project in July ... Read more
  • Bodean Hedwards (a researcher at The Border Crossing Observatory) recently took a close look at the increasing number of Tibetans self-immolating (setting themselves on fire) to protest against the Chinese occupation, writing an article called “Self-immolation and human rights: why we need to talk about Tibet” for The Conversation. In the past week, the number of ... Read more