Ntasha Bhardwaj is Doctoral Candidate at Rutgers University, Newark (School of Criminal Justice).
As a researcher, my work is concerned with the impact of gender and gender inequality on crime and fear of crime in South Asia. As a female, Indian scholar my research agenda is anchored in the goal to build on the limited yet growing criminal justice research in the South Asian context. While the field of comparative criminological research is growing, research specific to South Asia is limited, and theoretical work is needed that attends to social and cultural context.
Towards this end, my dissertation project Exploring Pathways to Incarceration among Indian and Sri Lankan Women is a mixed methods study, investigating the pre-prison lives and experiences of 180 women incarcerated in India and Sri Lanka. 85 women at three Indian prisons and 95 women at one Sri Lankan prison were interviewed for the study, with the aim to build on the limited yet growing knowledge on women’s carceral experiences specifically in South Asia. For the past few years, I have worked on getting access to prisons and collecting data. In Sri Lanka, I trained 6 research assistants to interview women. In India, after being rejected prison permission 45 times, I was permitted to collect data. However due to the limitations of this permission, I had to conduct all the interviews. The findings offer insights into similarities and differences in women’s pathways to incarceration across context, and contribute to our comparative knowledge base. The colonial impact, is reflected in women’s pathways to incarceration. While the majority of the women in India are incarcerated for family violence, Sri Lankan women were convicted for drug related offenses. The common theme across the two contexts has been how women’s societal identities were shaped during the British rule. As very few laws and related cultural practices have changed since the British rule ended, women’s rights in both contexts reflect colonial influence in similar yet distinct ways. In the tussle between upholding the nationalist agenda in prescribing women’s societal roles and conforming to the British ideals of the “perfect” woman; women’s rights were significantly altered creating contexts which push women into offending. Ultimately making us question how much agency women practice when engaging in unlawful behavior. Since my data set is large, I look forward to collaborating with scholars to continue to build understandings of women’s experiences prior to incarceration and replicating this study in different prisons in South Asia.
As I worked to develop my research agenda, teaching has played an enormous role in addressing the stress that comes along with working on such societal issues. I have taught and developed different courses (Crime in Different Cultures, Criminology, Gender, Crime & Justice, Introduction to Criminal Justice, White Collar Crime) at the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice. Interacting with students, sharing snippets from the field have helped me process the impact of my data.
Through my time in the doctoral program, I have been able to interact with several South Asian experts who reinforced the need to build context specific research. I realized that that the only way I could make the most of the last stretch of my dissertation, while preparing for the job market was by engaging in a project that commits to furthering this goal. Consequently, in collaboration with my research advisor Professor Jody Miller, we launched the South Asian Institute of Crime and Justice Studies (SAICJS). SAICJS aims to build efficient, context specific research to enable individuals and organizations develop research skills, and support the next generation of scholars in pursuing work in the realm of crime and justice studies.
- Bhardwaj, N. and Miller, J. (2021) “Comparative cross-national analyses of domestic violence: Insights from South Asia.” Feminist Criminology.
- Bhardwaj, N. and Apel, R. (2020). “Societal gender inequality and the gender gap in safety perceptions: Comparative evidence from the International Crime Victims Survey.” European Journal of Criminology.
- Jacobsen S., Miller J., Bhardwaj N. (2020). “Where is the shadow of sexual assault? Race, place, and the reconfiguration of gendered fear in an urban university setting.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.
- Bhardwaj, N. (May, 2021). “South Asia favors tough rape laws-it must eliminate its cultures of violence.” Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/article/992212/south-asia-favours-tough-rape-laws-but-must-also-eliminate-its-cultures-of-sexual-violence
- Bhardwaj, N. (December, 2020). “India’s dowry laws are ineffective, easily exploited, and women are paying the price.” Swaddle. https://theswaddle.com/indias-dowry-laws-are-ineffective-easily-exploited-and-women-are-paying-the-price/
- Punishment in Global Peripheries (2021) – Hosted by University of Oxford and National University of Litoral. Invited to present dissertation study: Exploring Pathways to Incarceration among Indian and Sri Lankan Women.
- 3rd Annual Haifa International Social Sciences Workshop for Graduate Students (2021) – Hosted by University of Haifa. Invited to present cutting edge social science research innovation based on dissertation study: Exploring Pathways to Incarceration among Indian and Sri Lankan Women.
- Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Crimes (2021) – Hosted by the ASC Division of Victimology. Invited to discuss examples of anti-Asian violence across United States of America.
- Early Career Researchers Virtual Conference (2020) -Hosted by The Minerva Center for the Rule of Law under Extreme Conditions, University of Haifa. Invited to discuss research: Exploring Pathways to Incarceration among Indian and Sri Lankan Women.
- COVID-19 and the Rise of Hate Crimes in Communities of Color (2020) – Hosted by the Pro Georgia, Women of Color Initiative. Invited as a panelist to discuss Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobic Violence to Counter the False Narratives Highlighted by the Pandemic.
- Bangladesh Postgraduate Course on Victimology, Victim Assistance and Criminal Justice (2020) – Invited as a resource faculty to present research on: Exploring Pathways to Incarceration among Indian and Sri Lankan Women
- American Society of Criminology (2020)-Paper accepted for presentation titled “Disgruntled Wives “or Dowry Victims: A Critical Analysis of the Dowry Laws in India.
- American Society of Criminology (2019) – Presented a paper titled Exploring Pathways to Incarceration among Indian and Sri Lankan Women.
- XXXIV International Post Graduate Course on Victimology, Victim Assistance and Criminal Justice (2018) – Presented research as a resource faculty on Considering the South Asian Context while conducting Prison Research.