This episode is the sixth installment of a series in which Shruti speaks with doctoral candidates and postdoctoral scholars about their research as they enter the job market and the world of academia. In this episode, Shruti talks with Mahima Vasishth about her job market paper, “Local Media Reports About Sexual Crimes and Judicial Outcomes in India.” They discuss the effects of media coverage on sexual harassment cases, what factors may be driving increased coverage, whether the gender of local politicians affects case outcomes and much more. Vasishth is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of California, Irvine. Her research interests include labor economics, development economics and public economics, especially the factors that shape women’s economic outcomes.
SHRUTI RAJAGOPALAN: Welcome to Ideas of India, where we examine the academic ideas that can propel India forward. My name is Shruti Rajagopalan, and I am a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. This is the 2022 job market series, where I speak with young scholars entering the academic job market about their latest research. I spoke with Mahima Vasishth, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of California, Irvine, about her job market paper, “Local Media Reports About Sexual Crimes and Judicial Outcomes in India.” We talked about sexual harassment and gender equality, the effect of media coverage on sexual harassment cases and the judicial outcome, whether the gender of local politicians affects case outcomes and much more.
For a full transcript of this conversation, including helpful links of all the references mentioned, click the link in the show notes or visit mercatus.org/podcasts.
Hi, Mahima. Thank you so much for being here. This is such a pleasure.
MAHIMA VASISHTH: Thanks, Shruti. I’m really delighted to discuss my work with you today. Thanks for having me.
Sexual Harassment and Gender Equality
RAJAGOPALAN: I’m delighted to read it. I want to first get into your paper, which is dealing with sexual harassment in the Indian milieu, especially when it comes to judicial enforcement. You look at the availability of media reports, or the incidence of media reports in a particular jurisdiction, and its impact on the judges making the decision for sexual harassment cases. What you find is that an increase in media reports before the judges increases the probability of conviction in those cases.
RAJAGOPALAN: You’re looking at a period a year before the actual decision is made. It’s not like a week or two. It’s a fairly long period of time. In a sense, this kind of media availability is changing the decision-making pattern, and the increase is quite substantial. It’s about 1.36 percentage points that you find, which seems like a small amount, but it’s actually quite large given that only about 12% of the cases—that’s the conviction rate. This is actually a sizable impact, so to speak.
Simultaneously, you also find that outside of sexual harassment cases, it doesn’t have much salience. What is a good way to think about why there is this increase in convictions? What is the underlying mechanism that is linking the availability or the increase in media stories to judicial outcomes?
VASISHTH: Right. Thanks for summarizing my paper so well. Before I get into the mechanisms, let me just start by situating the paper as a general-interest one, by saying that no discussion about gender equality is complete without addressing that woman feel unsafe to date. If we talk to our female friends, we realize the ways in which that affects our social and economic life. We are constantly talking about making safe choices, whether it is deciding which restaurant to go to with friends, and how we get there, to the jobs that we are aiming for.
Sexual harassment is really pervasive across the globe, and there are massive costs to pay for that, not only in terms of the loss in productive labor, but importantly enough, in terms of the bare minimum quality of life that we are giving to women. We are constantly made aware of these costs by our society with the victim shaming and the blaming that comes with reporting of these cases. I feel that’s one of the very big reasons why these crimes go unreported most of the time. Specific to India, women have strong legal protection by law, but there’s no denying that the enforcement system is completely broken.
That’s a big reason to worry, because the role of status is paramount here, and that’s not just in terms of the punishment that’s meted out to the perpetrators. We do find that—and there’s research that finds that—the number of cases that are filed for rape and sexual harassment, that’s been increasing in the country, but a depressingly large fraction of them do not even reach the trial stage. Those of us who have braved the system and dealt with the legal process in one way or another, we know exactly how the experience can get so harrowing.
In fact, for the cases that do reach the trial stage, they remain pending in the courts for the longest time, and they’re disposed of at snail speed, and the conviction rates are really low. One important point here is that the evidence that substantiates these cases is often so gray that the nature of crime resolution heavily relies on what he said and what she said in the court. It’s really the individual perceptions of all the agents who are involved in the system that matters a lot. That goes from how lawyers are pushing the case for their clients to how the judges are perceiving the idea of justice in a particular time period for these cases.
Effects of Media Reporting
VASISHTH: Before I get into discussing the mechanisms in greater depth, let me just give a little bit of context to how media reporting can really be important here. The global media movement has really taken the world by storm, and not only has it created a space for victims to speak up about their experiences, but importantly enough, it has significantly altered our idea of tolerating such crimes in society. Again, specific to India, the media outrage post the gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape case is often seen as analogous to the #metoo movement of the West.
Data stands testament to that. Our media has increased coverage of stories about sexual crimes more than ever before, and the government of India has brought in some key changes to the Indian Penal Code under the Criminal Amendment Law in 2013. There’s some brilliant research by Abhilasha Sahai, who finds that the reporting has gone up in places where coverage of gang rape cases was higher, and when women felt more related to the victim based on the socioeconomic status.
Essentially, in this context, my paper is an attempt to understand how the legal system works, and if it responds to extra-legal factors like media coverage about sexual crimes. I’m studying this in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case in India.
There are two broad channels that have been identified in the literature, as to why media reports could lead to changes in judicial outcomes. The first one of them is that the judges could respond to electoral incentives, and the public can really hold these judges accountable. That’s something that is not likely to be the case in this context, since the judges are appointed through a very, very rigorous process. It’s not like we are electing the judges, as seems to be the case in the U.S. context.
The second channel here is that the media report could alter the perceptions of the agents that are involved. Now, there are three layers to this channel, the first being that the reporting behavior could change. It’s possible that the media reports encourage more victims to file cases that could either alter the number of cases that are being filed, or it could change the case composition. By that, I mean that we will start seeing cases that are likely to see a conviction get to the court more often.
The second channel out here, and the second agent of decision-making here, could be the police. Now, if the perceptions of the police are changing in response to the media reports, it’s possible that the investigation report that they’re filing makes for a very strong case in favor of the victim, and that is what’s driving the conviction result.
The third channel here would be the judges, the perceptions of the judges. Now, while it would be ideal to actually measure the perceptions of these judges and see the margins they lie on when they’re dealing with such cases, I do not have a direct measure for that. I don’t exploit a direct measure for that in the paper. Whereas I rely on the time that’s taken for case redressal or the time that it takes to get to a final outcome in the case as a measure for the perception of the judges.
Hidden Factors Driving Media Coverage
RAJAGOPALAN: You talk about the media reporting and the increase in media reporting a year before the decision as almost random, or as good as random, right?
RAJAGOPALAN: That is the way that you’re trying to identify the availability of that information and its impact on judges, and therefore, on conviction rates. Right?
RAJAGOPALAN: Could there be other mechanisms, underlying mechanisms, that lead to both the increase in media coverage and also the increase in conviction rates, irrespective of the channel through the judges? Is it possible that media will tend to report more on cases where there is more information? Since you don’t look at hard crimes like rape and gang rape, and you’re looking at sexual harassment only, where we don’t have forensic evidence, where we don’t have much of a paper trail and so on; it’s very much a “he said, she said” story.
The cases where there is more information, and better information, are more likely to lead to a conviction, but those are also the same cases that are more likely to be talked about in the media and more likely to be better investigated by the police. All the three layers that you’re talking about, the mechanism is not through the media, but it’s actually endogenous to the quality of the case itself, which is, these are cases where there’s just a clearer picture, so there can be more information at all levels. Why is that not the story that is going on?
VASISHTH: That’s a great way to put it. It’s definitely possible that the media is reporting more cases that have more evidence. In order to understand that a little better, I do dig into the media reports a little bit. I do conduct a qualitative analysis on these media reports. I select 50 random media reports from a sample, and I do an in-depth analysis of what’s exactly the content of these media reports? I find that 63% of them are actually factual. They are just reporting the incident the way it stands, and most of them are about sexual assaults. They’re not about harassment; they’re about actual rape cases that are reported in the police.
Those media reports are just about what happened. They’re just factually stating what the incident looked like, that it has been filed in the police, the people in the neighborhood or the parents are really angry that this happened. That’s really about it. It’s not saying anything more about the evidence or anything else. It’s really talking about the cases that reach the police. After they have been filed in the police station is when the media report is actually talking about them.
A minority of them, about 18% of them, are political statements. Those go either way. Some political statements are condemning the level of sexual crimes in society, and some of them are really heavily blaming the victims and calling out women for being responsible for the crime being inflicted upon them. It’s really a very, very small majority of them that talk about the case outcome in itself. That predominantly happens after the case has been solved.
Yes, it is true that the media reports are about the cases that have already been filed. In some sense, it’s less about the soft discussion that’s happening around sexual harassment. But that’s exactly what makes it interesting: that it’s only when these big cases or these strong cases are reaching the police, or they’re making big headlines, that’s when people start caring about them so much. When the magnitude of these reports is going up, that’s when we start seeing impacts on the perceptions or impacts on the case outcomes.
Do Outcomes Depend on the Judges or the Victims?
RAJAGOPALAN: Another way to think about it is, in the earlier part of the discussion you were talking about how the process is punishment for women. First, there is the sexual harassment or assault, and then there is the judicial harassment and the investigative harassment. Also, it goes on for years, so you’re basically reliving that moment for a really long time. Now, my question is, is the increased conviction rate endogenous to the nature of the complainant or the victim?
That is, only the people who have the grit to see this through, and who have the stomach to discuss this for years on end, are the ones who are going to be talking to the media and are also going to be the ones who are pushing for this with the police and the judiciary? Is this story one that is endogenous to the victim more than a judge perception story?
In your qualitative analysis, do you see the media talking more to the victims and naming the victims and so on, because that’s also not allowed by law, but they don’t do that anyway—do you see a lot of that going on in the media reporting, which would make me think this is endogenous to the victim?
VASISHTH: Yes. That’s a great point. I do not find that the media is talking about the story from the victim’s perspective at all. It does seem to be a lot more about just stating the facts and the case. In my analysis, I found just one report maybe, which was talking where the victim themselves were talking about the crime that happened. Most of them are still about other cases. They’re just like reporting other cases as they stand. They’re not talking to the victims.
RAJAGOPALAN: No, but where are they getting the facts if they’re not talking to the victims? They must be getting the facts somewhere. It’s the victims or the victims’ families. What I mean is, someone is giving them that information.
RAJAGOPALAN: It seems like the victims have the most interest in this case to provide information to the media, right? The same people who are likely to be able to provide that information are also likely to be able to withstand this judicial scrutiny that all these women are put through anyway.
VASISHTH: Right. To that, I would say that the fact that I’m looking at the cases that have already begun trial, these seem to be like a final outcome in themselves. It’s not like all the cases are reported. A depressing majority of them are not reported to begin with. After they are reported, most of them don’t even reach the trial stage. We are indeed looking at a really, really small minority of those cases where the victims have the confidence to take this case forward, and they’re very strong in taking this case forward.
We are dealing with this minority of the cases to begin with, and I don’t think there would be any variation across space and time, especially in the small window that I’m looking at. I’m only looking at the cases that are filed between 2014 and 2018. In that small window, it may be unlikely that there’s a lot of variation in these cases that are reaching the court. The fact that they’ve already begun trial and we are seeing that there is an impact on the outcome on these margins is rather interesting.
Harassment vs. Assault and Rape Cases
RAJAGOPALAN: To go back to your paper, you talk about how this has no impact on rape convictions. Right?
RAJAGOPALAN: The way the Indian penal and evidence system is designed, the requirement in cases of rape, the punishment is higher. There is also a much higher level of evidence, which is hard evidence, right? Physical evidence.
RAJAGOPALAN: This is whether a medical kit was performed, and other kinds of physical evidence in case of sexual assault, which is not always the case with just sexual harassment cases. That’s an important distinction. Why do you think you don’t find that difference when it comes to cases that require more hard evidence? It would lend credence to the theory of, when it’s a “he said, she said,” more information forthcoming from the victims is likely to get reported in the media, and therefore also the judges, versus hard cases that require physical evidence, in which case there’s no impact.
VASISHTH: Yes, that’s really an interesting thing that I find. I feel like that’s happening, because again, like you said, the punishment for the rape cases is much higher, as compared to those in sexual harassment. The sexual harassment cases that we’re talking about are of a nature that is very, very gray. We’re talking about these new types of sexual harassment. Again, in the time period that we’re talking about, we’re talking about these new types of sexual harassment that are now considered as criminal offence, like voyeurism or stalking.
The fact that these rape cases come with such hard forensic evidence, and there is a much higher punishment for these crimes, there might be lower discretion that the judges might have in these cases, whereas in sexual harassment, the fact that the evidence is so gray, it relies a lot on the statement of the victims and the way the story is built in the court. The judges might still have a lot more discretion there in terms of their own perceptions and how they think the crime is situated in that time period that is under consideration.
RAJAGOPALAN: I find this interesting because I think this leads more credence to the “greater information availability” story, once again, that we were talking about at the beginning. Because it seems like cases that rely more on murky information, where it’s not clear exactly what happened, versus cases where it’s clearer because there are other kinds of supporting evidence . . . Now this leads me to think that, again, those cases where there’s greater evidence are more likely to be reported in the media, and therefore are also more likely to be better represented in court.
That’s what’s leading to the conviction, as opposed to some fundamental change in perception, because if it were a change in perception, then the judges who are now just constantly seeing this increased media reporting on crimes against women should be more sensitized to the fact that hard evidence is harder to find. And so the convictions in rape cases should also go up if it’s a story of judicial perception.
VASISHTH: I think that’s an interesting way to put this. But I would also mention here that I do find that the time that’s taken in redressing these cases or in giving the final verdict significantly goes up. Had it been the case that it’s only the cases that have stronger evidence, those are the ones that are reaching the court, and those are the ones that are being reported in the media to be driving the conviction result, I would’ve found that the media reporting before the case filing is what would be driving this outcome. Whereas I don’t find any impact of media report before filing.
In some sense, I do look at the media reporting before the cases are filed, on the number of cases that are getting filed, and I don’t find any impact. It’s not like more sexual harassment or more rape cases are getting filed in response to these media reports. The reporting behavior is not changing there. Secondly, it’s still possible that the number of cases were not changing, but the composition of the cases were getting changed.
However, again, had it been that the case in itself was coming with hard evidence, if that is what was likely to drive the conviction result, it would have been the media reporting before the case filing to matter. Whereas, again, it does not matter. It’s really the media reporting during the cases in trial is what’s driving my outcome result here. It’s not bulletproof, this method of ruling out the reporting of behavior change, but I can still comfortably say that it’s not something that’s being driven by the case quality or the case characteristics.
RAJAGOPALAN: Now, coming to the broader question, when you’re talking about it takes longer to resolve these cases, is that true just to sexual harassment cases where it leads to a conviction, or is it just all cases that are taking longer? Because judicial pendency is also a major problem when it comes to enforcement of crimes against women.
VASISHTH: Yes, certainly. What I really find there is that an increase in media reporting is leading to an increase in the time that’s taken to reach a final decision for sexual harassment cases. I also see an increase for rape cases, although that’s not significant. But interestingly, I’m finding that increase to translate into the more time that’s taken to resolve nonviolent property crimes. These are the crimes that should not get affected by media reporting about sexual crimes.
As a placebo check, I do find that when media reports about sexual assaults are increasing, they do not seem to matter at all for the conviction of nonviolent property crimes. Whereas I see a corresponding increase in the time that’s taken in getting at the final decision for these nonviolent property crimes. These are the cases that are being dealt with by the same judges who are dealing with the sexual harassment cases. And the magnitude of that increase in time is exactly similar to the increase that we find in sexual harassment cases.
In some sense, we can argue that there is a likely substitution that’s happening. In a situation where the system is so strained, and we are struggling with judicial capacity already, there are likely to be implications for court efficiencies here. Yes, this is suggestive of the fact that the judges are more likely to spend time scrutinizing these cases. That’s true for the cases that are reaching conviction, that’s true for the cases that are not getting convicted in sexual harassment, but that also has externalities on the other cases that are being discussed in the court.
RAJAGOPALAN: Yes. I think it may also have to do with the fact that a lot of the newer crimes that have been introduced from the books—sexual harassment is a classic example—some of these crimes were on the books, but they were never really reported, filed, never made it to court, kind of cases. Same for the nonviolent property crimes and so on. There’s a lot of new stuff on the books. Maybe this is also reflecting the fact that the judges are also learning how to navigate these cases in this new environment, because this is something new for the Indian judicial system as a whole.
VASISHTH: Right. That really makes the whole idea about the perceptions and what the local sentiment looks like really a lot more important, because it’s new for everybody, and you’re moving with the times, in some sense.
RAJAGOPALAN: I see where you’re going with this. More generally, I feel like this has bigger implications, because a very large part of the cost to the perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual crimes against women, more generally, it’s the probability of conviction, the expected value of that, right? The expected cost is a probability of conviction times the punishment. We know that punishment is very high in India, but the conviction rates are woefully low. In fact, the reporting rates are woefully low. Even with convictions, we’re talking about a tiny fraction of cases which actually make it to the courts.
Now, you found a 1.36 percentage point increase, which is nontrivial, given that the conviction rate is only 12%, but how much of a dent will something like this make in the larger picture of reducing sexual harassment because now these cases are actually going to court, they’re getting resolved, and the conviction rates are higher? What is your hunch? Because I know this is difficult to measure.
VASISHTH: Absolutely. That’s a great point, and I believe harder to answer with my paper, but my hunch is that when more of these—and this is something I plan on looking into for my future work—that when more of these cases are getting convicted, when women start feeling that the system is on their side and they are ready to punish the perpetrators, there may be an increase in reporting. And the fact that it’s becoming increasingly costly to perpetrate these crimes might even reduce this behavior in future.
It’s just that the perpetrators are always out on the road, right? They’re always free to roam around on the roads. As victims, women feel like the system is always against them, and it’s not on their side. That really perpetuates the whole cycle of sexual crimes in society.
RAJAGOPALAN: Yes. Even though yours is not a depressing result, in the overall picture, this is still a very depressing story.
VASISHTH: I agree.
Gender and Political Decision-Making
RAJAGOPALAN: To switch gears, because you’ve written lots of interesting papers and I want to talk about some of your other work, you’re also looking at gender and politics. This paper that we just talked about is more about gender and judiciary, in one sense, and you’re looking at how male versus female politicians make decisions, right? The standard narrative in India is that political decision-making by politicians is gendered, in the sense that there are different kinds of issues that women care about versus what men care about.
When women come to power and they are the representatives, they are more likely to fix those issues. We have pretty robust evidence at the Panchayati level. We know that representation at the parliamentary level for women is very, very low. It’s mandated at the Panchayati level through reservation, so it’s much higher there. You’re actually looking at the intermediate level, which is at the state government level, which is MLAs. And what you find is actually, there isn’t much of a difference between male versus female MLAs when it comes to traditionally gendered issues like education.
Even though women actually talk more about education in the run-up to the elections or while they’re MLAs, it doesn’t actually change the number of schools, the amount of investment in education or anything like that. Why is this the case? What do you think is going on? Is the story one of what Bhumi Purohit finds, which is, the women lack the networks and the political and social capital, and therefore the agency, to work across different channels?
Is it a question of party support? Is it a question of there are other gendered issues, like water and women’s safety, which are trumping education, which is still more a universal issue than a gendered issue? What is the story? Why do we not see women, when they come to power, actually take more action, even though they talk more about it?
VASISHTH: Absolutely. That’s exactly what got me interested in this paper, and thanks for mentioning Bhumi’s work, because I essentially hinge on the channel that she suggests. I am looking at elections that happen between 2008 and 2018. I’m looking at constituency-level school building that’s happening in the election years. I’m looking at constituencies where a woman narrowly got elected against a man, and I’m comparing those constituencies to constituencies where a man narrowly won against a woman.
I find that there’s no difference in the growth in school construction in the areas where we are electing female politicians, which we would expect to happen, given that we find anecdotal evidence that women seem to care more about education. Now, there could be several channels at play, as you suggested. Lower political network could be one of them, but I don’t find that to be the case. I look at whether the female politician is an incumbent or not. I don’t find that that seems to matter.
Secondly, it could be differences in candidate quality. There’s evidence that women are less likely to have criminal records against them. There’s this whole understanding that the criminal politicians might know how to get the work done, but given these differences in criminal backgrounds or in candidate quality, I don’t find that that’s something that’s likely to drive the result.
What I find using, again, descriptive evidence, is hinging upon the fact that women could have lower political agency. I use candidate- and constituency-level data from two states on the development project expenditure that is conducted under the MLA local area development scheme. This scheme essentially allows all the MLAs to apply for funding for discretionary projects that could help in local development. They’re free to decide what they want to spend on, and they can submit applications for those projects and get them sanctioned.
Now, what I find is really interesting there; I find that women, on average, get fewer projects sanctioned as compared to the men. Interestingly, for the projects that are sanctioned, I find that women are getting less sanctioned for those projects, and that difference is huge. It’s about $80,000 less for women as compared to the men.
Among these projects that are sanctioned, it’s rather interesting to find that the share of expenditure on education-related activities for both men and women seems to be very similar. We do believe that women care a lot more about education, but we don’t see that happening when we are looking at expenditure-related data. The fact that they’re getting such meager funds sanctioned, and they’re getting less money allocated, might signal toward the fact that they have lower political agency in getting this done.
Male vs. Female Spending
RAJAGOPALAN: Overall, you’re saying they get less money sanctioned, so they have less ability to go into this discretionary expenditure and indulge the areas that they truly care about relative to the men, but even—
RAJAGOPALAN: —with less spending power, there isn’t that much difference in education because both men and women seem to be investing about the same. Is there a difference in other areas, outside of education, when it comes to male versus female spending?
VASISHTH: Yes. In this data, I find that women do spend a larger share of the money that they get on community building. This includes activities like setting up a community hall, where people could come together and sit. There is more spending on religious activities, spending on a temple or, let’s say, a road going to a temple, and in agriculture-related activities.
RAJAGOPALAN: Okay. Very much areas that affect rural women—
RAJAGOPALAN: —in a sense, who are generally not taken care of by the state and state provisioning of goods as much. But it is less gendered than one imagines.
VASISHTH: Absolutely. Yes.
RAJAGOPALAN: It’s not water, it is not safety, it is not education, it is not anganwadis. That’s not the story of what’s going on.
VASISHTH: Yes. Part of the reason that’s happening, probably, is because education is such a state-sponsored subject, and the center does have a role to play. But the fact that you are ultimately interacting so much with the male-dominant environment in the government, that’s probably a margin you can’t really impact on when you’re talking about fiscal capacities.
Yes, women end up being great role models when it comes to education, and there’s research that finds that that’s indeed the case, but when it comes to actual expenditure-level changes, the lack of political agency and the fact that it’s such a male-dominated environment really seems to matter, I feel.
Female Political Leaders and Court Decisions
RAJAGOPALAN: It’s going to be bizarre for me to link your two papers, but does having female MLAs in a particular region or the particular area—that particular Gram Panchayat or urban local body becoming reserved for women seat or having a female parliamentarian—does any of this affect the district court decisions at all?
VASISHTH: That’s interesting. That’s something I haven’t explicitly tested for, but I do look at the differences in the conviction probabilities and, in my case, judicial outcomes by looking at the gender of the judges. I find that female judges are more likely to respond to these media reports. It’s not significant, but the direction of the coefficient is as expected.
To answer to the political environment, I look at the share of criminally accused politicians that are in power in the district. I look at the share of politicians who are accused of major crimes, and these include assaults, murders, crimes against women. I do find that judges are less likely to respond to media reports when there are more criminally accused politicians in power. Again, it’s not significant, but it’s indicative of the directions we would expect the court, the judicial decision-making to function in.
RAJAGOPALAN: Yes. I think it may not just be the judges. The police is basically state-level controlled. If you have very powerful politicians at the state level who are basically criminals, then in those kinds of cases, you would expect the police to be less responsive when it comes to investigations and so on.
Versus I was imagining that if there are women, and especially women who don’t have these kinds of criminal cases against them, especially against other women—which for women tends to usually be dowry cases, are the number-one hard crimes on which women are accused against by other women. Anyway, when it comes to women, it might not be the channel through the judges, it might be actually the channel through the police, is my imagination.
VASISHTH: Right. That’s absolutely plausible. Again, I go back to my empirical strategy, in terms of the fact that I’m looking at these media reports before the judges are making the decisions, essentially after the police have already filed their report. The metric that I’m using is, in some sense, is something that’s affecting the judges’ decisions rather than the police engagement in the court. Yes, it’s something worth investigating in greater detail going forward, and certainly looking at the interactions with the gender breakup in the government.
RAJAGOPALAN: Yes. This stuff is fascinating. I think it’s like a broad research program encompassing all levels of government, all branches of government. I’m excited to read more of this work.
RAJAGOPALAN: To move on to a happier note, because it’s so depressing to discuss sexual harassment and basically the state of the judiciary, what have you been up to through this pandemic period?
VASISHTH: I was very lucky to be back home with my family in India. I did manage to be with them during the pandemic. I was really binge-watching a lot of shows. I was baking. I had a newfound love for baking tea cakes, and thanks to shows like “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Indian Matchmaking,” we were having our own little chai pe charcha at home, discussing these important gender issues. My personal and my professional life was quite muddled out there. I was inflicting this upon the rest of my household.
RAJAGOPALAN: No, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” I actually really love that show.
Thank you so much for doing this, Mahima. This was such a pleasure.
VASISHTH: Thanks, Shruti. I had a lot of fun talking to you.