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

Despite being one of the most widely recognized communities in exile, and one of the most politically sensitive regions in Asia, there has been little academic research into the Tibetan refugee experience. There have been a number of reports that suggest that Tibetans on the Nepal border risk being detained, subjected to physical and sexual abuse, torture and repatriation. Furthermore, there have been several allegations that current border control practices, including the introduction of new intrusive surveillance policies, have resulted in the criminalization of Tibetans seeking refuge in Nepal. Despite evidence suggesting these policies criminalize basic human rights, and the recent attention paid to borders and border control, the Tibet-Nepal border has been neglected in criminological discourse.

This research will document the experience of Tibetan refugees on the Nepal border and examine the impact that criminalizing border control practices and policies have on Tibetan refugees, particularly Tibetan women and Buddhist nuns. While still in the early stages, this research will also challenge preconceived criminological notions associated with borders and border control. While the current body of literature suggests that the renewal of nationalism and globalization are the fundamental justifications for increased border control, there is more to be said about the role of identity, its conflict with human rights and the way that gender can influence experiences on the border. While there is an expansive body of research that looks at the influence of identity and performance, human rights and gender within the context of the border, the relationship between these concepts and the role they have in the criminalization of border crossings has potential practical and theoretical relevance for both this region and criminology. This research sets out to examine the Tibet-Nepal border and associated experiences as it offers new lines of inquiry to challenge traditional notions of the border.

This research aims to:

  • Document the experiences of Tibetans, and specifically women and nuns during their journey from the Tibetan Autonomous Region into Nepal or India and at the border;
  • Examine the impact, if any, that the relationship between China and Nepal has on their experience;
  • Examine the migration and asylum or refugee policies of the neighboring countries, namely India and Nepal, and the way this interacts with the Tibetan border experience;
  • Consider the International Human Rights issues and responses to the Tibet Issue, particularly in relation to the female experiences in borderlands;
  • Investigate the existence of a relationship between border, human rights and gender and the role that this relationship may have on the border experience;
  • Consider the extent to which the Tibetan experience, particularly women’s experiences, challenges contemporary understandings of the ‘border’; and
  • Examine the practical and theoretical influences that these experiences have on contemporary criminological border studies.