DAY FOURTEEN: Due to (Covid-19)

How do we encapsulate the experiences and voices of those who occupy liminal spaces in society? Qri Kim writes about her project ‘Due To’, and the reconceptualisation of the Nomadian in her art.

Picture above: The Nomadian. Credits: Qri Kim. Reproduced by permission.

Qri Kim

We have lost our day to day normality, our intimacy, our generosity, and our sense of humanity. “Due to Covid-19” has become an indispensable sentence or comment in our conversation. We have found ourselves tacitly accepting the demands of social distancing. I would suggest that this agreement is based on our wish to be good citizens. But, how can we know if we are good citizens? How can we actually distinguish between being a good or a bad citizen? If we follow the standardised Good citizen guidance, would the pandemic be over? Could we then get closer to each other? I would ask: before Covid-19, how many times have we made excuses and drawn a line between us and our neighbours? 

Many countries have enacted laws for protecting minorities, calling for social change. However, some of the rules seem to result in making an ‘In-Between Minority’, a liminal group of individuals who cannot attain neither minority nor majority status. I call this group ‘Nomadian’.

In this project, I intend to focus on the Nomadian’s struggle straddling the line between two different worlds and to explore the question – How can art convey the experience of Nomadian liminality and struggles to those outside, that which cannot be articulated through language?

I intend to carve out the imagery of the frontier between outsiders and the minority by shaping the Nomad’s struggles into a line through a series of workshops held over 16 days. These workshops consist of writing sessions and forming lines using the mise-en-abyme[1] technique. Through these workshops, I tried to make sense of the Nomadian’s melancholy through their writing.

Picture above: Excerpt from the diary of Qri Kim’s participant from the 16 Day workshop. Reproduced by permission.

My project started with the LGBT community in South Korea, a country that is classified under Zone 2. There are no explicit anti-discrimination laws in the country and the constitutional and society in general are not ready to fully welcome the LGBT community. I think some LGBT Koreans are a good example of being nomadian as they are isolated at the border, excluded through hegemony, conventional norms, mainstream media, and bias.

In my art I prefer to use the term “learn” when regarding someone’s personal history and not to intervene in their narrative. I think that it is not possible to participate in another’s inner story, ever. What we can only do is learn and try to include minorities through our actions. My aim is to find possibilities to bridge the margin which already exist around us, through my conceptualising-line practice. I would like to name this project “Due to”. Below are stories of individuals in South Korea, who have been excluded, who sit at this boundary between mainstream society and those marginalised.

“Due to (the Covid-19 virus)” 

There is a serious problem of an anti-gay backlash in South Korea due to Covid-19. A man was infected with coronavirus after attending clubs in Seoul’s gay district, which was reported in the media. His reluctance to have a Covid-19 test brought about a 7th wave and placed the LGBT community in danger. He asked for the mercy of the law, however, unfortunately, he has got an actual prison sentence. He stated “I was extremely worried to test positive for the Covid-19 virus. I was in fear of the social and professional humiliation…”. 

“Due to (your changed sex)”

Byun Huisoo joined the army as a man but had gender reassignment surgery after suffering from gender dysphoria. “I will continue to fight until I am allowed to remain to serve in the army…” The Korea government employs mandatory conscription system for men; however, the government has not yet taken appropriate countermeasures.

My name is Jang. I am not a monster and I am not a prostitute. I am a transgender-bar owner in Busan. I have a lovely husband and his family accept me as a member of family. I am a Youtuber and communicate through/on social media. I can feel that society has been changing slowly. I am a bit of a plastic surgery addict… Through several surgeries, finally, I have got a proper women’s body. However, I still feel that I am in between male and female. Therefore, I try to renew my gender identity with surgery… There are a few colleagues working with me. Most of them need a lot of money to get gender reassignment surgery but their only choice of employment is low-paid bar work. Some of them are still undecided whether they get surgery or not. 

Yena is a famous trans-gender Youtuber. She used to be a popular academy teacher and she graduated from the top university in Korea. She was proud of her job and her previous students still remember her as a good teacher. Once she became Her, she lost her job. She could not find another job for a long time so that she often went without meals during the day. What she can only do is to become a Youtuber. She enjoys sharing her story with her viewers, however, still she wishes she could stand in front of students.

“Due to (being from South Korea)” 

“Citizenship and Immigration Canada has a list of ‘safe’ countries considered to be ‘non-refugee producing’. Individuals coming from these designated countries are given an expedited refugee process of three months and no right to appeal a negative decision to the Immigration and Refugee Board Appeals Division” (Fobear, 2017). Since South Korea is considered as a ‘safe’ country, LGBT South Koreans cannot be part of the expedited refugee process, leading to the ironic consequence of LGBT South Koreans remaining in danger of discrimination in their home country.

“Due to (Christian doctrine) 

Kim Wook-suk had spent years carefully and quietly trying to hide his sexuality. He was raised by a devout Protestant mother who taught him that being gay meant burning in hell. He listened fearfully in church as the pastor preached that homosexuality was a sin and encouraging it would bring disease. His mother, he says, kept trying to “save him”, but her actions meant he feared his own family at times. “Using people from her church , she tried to kidnap me multiple times to go through conversion therapy. I was forced to go through some of these therapies, however there were times I managed to avoid them and escape.” From the interview on ‘Gay in South Korea: ‘She said I don’t need a son like you’ (BBC,2019).

There are a lot of differentiated lines in our society and in our minds, and we are faced with lines every day. However, most of these are intangible so that we hardly can recognise them and disregard their significance. Through a re-conceptualisation of lines, I have attempted to visualise these social dissensus into a physical line. While society has tried to embrace difference and enacted rules to protect minorities, some of these rules have produced unintended forms of discrimination. Through my participatory workshop, I translated the struggles of an African gay participant into art. Using a rainbow image, I hope to pose the following question to viewers and readers:

  1. How can we quantify and measure the agony and pain experienced by minorities?
  2. How does one divide red and orange in a rainbow?
  3. How can one say that another is different?
  4. How does one judge the lightness of one sorrow over another?

[1] this is a particular technique in art and film to insert stories within a larger narrative, commonly overlapping with each other.

Qri is a PhD candidate at University of Edinburgh in Fine Art. Her research aims to shed light on the history of Korean comfort women, who were taken by the Japanese as sex slaves during the Second World War. She looks predominantly to archives and participatory workshops as her data collection method. You can follow her on Instagram @kim.qri

DAY TEN: Picturing Violence Unseen

Image above: FGM Campaigner Fatou Baldeh (Scotland-Gambia)by Alicia Bruce. Reproduced by permission of Zero Tolerance

Alicia Bruce with Fatou Baldeh

I was the photographer for Zero Tolerance ‘Violence Unseen’ campaign: a photography exhibition to put unacknowledged and often unseen forms of violence against women on the map. It was launched in 2018, 25 years after the original iconic Zero Tolerance campaign[1], shot by the late Franki Raffles. 

The original Zero Tolerance campaign was a ground breaking Scottish public awareness initiative in the 1990s which challenged social attitudes, stereotypes and myths using powerful images and slogans. The campaign had a far-reaching impact across the rest of the UK and internationally.

Taking on this commission was important personally and professionally for me as a working-class Scottish woman, as the mother of a young daughter, as a photographer and as a campaigner.    Violence against women and girls is not a private domestic matter, it’s a human rights issue. Women are attacked verbally, physically, professionally at all levels, in person and online, both directly and indirectly. Ending violence against women should be everyone’s priority. Complacency on this issue is an endorsement.  

Over the past decades there have been dramatic changes to public attitudes around some aspects of men’s violence against women. Yet domestic abuse, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women are still prevalent in Scotland today, especially for groups of women who face other forms of discrimination; women with learning disabilities, women who sell sex, lesbian, bisexual and trans (LBT) and black and minority ethnic women. In response to this, Zero Tolerance has created a new photography exhibition, Violence Unseen, to explore these types of violence against women that remain unseen and unacknowledged by mainstream society.  The exhibition was launched at Stills in September 2018 and has since been exhibited across Scotland in colleges, bus stations, an airport, government buildings and more.

The Violence Unseen Travelling Exhibition: Image reproduced by permission of Zero Tolerance and Alicia Bruce

Before making any images I worked closely in dialogue, research and collaboration with multiple partner organisations including the amazing Shakti Women’s Aid who put me in contact with Fatou Baldeh, a survivor and campaigner to end Female Genital Mutilation.    I attended Shakti’s excellent and harrowing training on ‘Honour-based’ abuse.  

Violence Unseen Reimagined: Image of Fatou Baldeh by Alicia Bruce reproduced by permission of Zero Tolerance

My portrait with Fatou was made collaboratively in her flat in Edinburgh in 2017  where she lived at the time with her two young sons.  The youngest was only three months old.  Having met for coffee a few weeks before and spoken on the phone I was already in awe of her.   In the spirit of photographs made in the early 90s by feminist photographer Franki Raffles, my own personal remit for the new Zero Tolerance campaign was to show women’s strength, dignity and power.      In my role as photographer I’m a conduit for the images I make with others. So  instead of projecting too much of my own feelings or research I’ve reflected on the photograph of Fatou and would prefer to share her words reflecting back on the image we made together.

AB: In my photograph with you I see a grounded and strong mother, activist and professional who takes pride in herself and her boys.  I see a deep and loving connection between you and your baby, a warm, loving home and someone comfortable in her own skin. What do you see symbolically in the photograph?   

FB: “That year was one of the most difficult years in my life. But that picture for me shows; I see a defiant woman who refuses to give up, who refuses to be defined by her experience. Holding my son up was me showing pride as a single mother with a career who faces challenges that so many other women are facing as well but refuses to give up.”

AB: The ‘She Believed She Could So She Did’ picture within our image was so personal to you but also universal.  Can you tell me more about that framed text and what it means to you?

FB: “Those words where inspirational and motivating for me. They reminded me that no matter how difficult things get, if I believe that I can do them or get through them then I will.”

AB: How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your campaigning?

FB: Due to the pandemic it has been impossible to engage as many women and girls in realising their sexual and reproductive health and rights as I would have wanted to this year. A lot of our work is face to face with communities and the provision of safe spaces for women and girls. This has been severely affected due to Covid restrictions despite the fact that we saw a rise in incidents of SGBV.

AB: Your education in women’s health and in psychology empowered you to make social change, especially for Women’s Sexual Health and particularly for preventing FGM in Gambia. What has been the impact of this in Scotland, in Gambia and internationally?

FB: “I come from a society where many girls still do not have access to basic education. I also come from a family and society that practices FGM. Through education I became aware of the impact of harmful traditional practices and other forms of SGBV. This knowledge and understanding has motivated me to use my voice and platform to raise awareness of FGM and all forms of violence against women and girls. Through this I have the direct impact on protecting girls from harm but also inspiring other young women to join the fight against VAWG. I believe my work in Scotland contributed in putting a limelight on the fight against FGM and the provision of services tailored to survivors of FGM. In recognition of my work and support for migrant women in Scotland I was recently awarded an MBE by her Majesty the Queen.”

AB: If you could have a chat with seven year old Fatou now, what words of wisdom would you share with her?

FB “If I could advise Fatou at seven I would say: have big dreams, think big and go make the world a better and safer place for women and girls.”

AB: Since we met in 2017 you’ve achieved so much returning to Gambia. You have become a CEO of your own charity and received an MBE.  You are a legend!  What’s next?

FB: “I will continue to work for the safety and protection of the rights of women and girls and supporting young girls to realise their full sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

AB: If people reading this could do one thing to raise awareness on the prevention of FGM what should it be?

FB: “Continue breaking the silence around violence against women and girls. Make people aware that violations such as FGM continue to affect girls and hinder their full potential. Only if we continue challenging and fighting shall this harmful practice be abolished.”

Visit virtual exhibition here

An accessible version of the exhibition can be found here

Fatou Baldeh MBE is a Gambian-born activist involved in the campaign to end FGM. She has an MSc. in Sexual and Reproductive Health and was the FGM mapping and network coordinator at Waverley Care in Scotland and a Trustee for Dignity Alert & Research Forum (DARF). She experienced female genital mutilation at the age of seven. 

Shakti Women’s Aid is a Scottish charity that helps black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women, children, and young people experiencing, or who have experienced, domestic abuse from a partner, ex-partner, and/or other members of the household. Shakti provides training and consultancy for agencies working with BAME women, children, and young people.

Zero Tolerance is a Scottish charity working to end men’s violence against women by promoting gender equality and challenging attitudes that normalise violence and abuse. We work to end violence against women through tackling the root cause of this violence – gender inequality. Tweet @ZTScotland 

Alicia Bruce is an award-winning, working class Scottish photographer and educator.   Human rights, community collaboration and social justice are at the core of her artistic practice.  Alicia’s photographs have been exhibited and published internationally and are held in collections including the National Galleries of Scotland, St Andrews University and UK Parliament.  Her series ‘Menie: TRUMPED’ documents a resilient Scottish community who stood up to Donald Trump.  Her commissioned portfolio features campaigns for Project Ability, Zero Tolerance and Crisis. Awards include RSA Morton Award.    Bruce is a Teaching Fellow and Photography Tutor at University of Edinburgh and eca. 

Tweet @picturemaking

Instagram @aliciabrucephoto

[1] For background on the original campaign and its impact see Katie Cosgrove (2001) No Man Has the Right  and Fiona Mackay (2001) The Case of Zero Tolerance: Women’s Politics in Action? in E. Breitenbach and F. Mackay eds. Women and Contemporary Scottish Politics: An Anthology Polygon at Edinburgh. 

DAY TEN: ‘My pain became my beautiful testimony’: breaking the silence on the sexual abuse of girls

“There is great power in our voice.”
Nigerian author and activist Fatima Ishiaku turned her traumatic past into a memoir – and a beacon of hope for young girls like her.

Fatima Ishiaku

In our society, a lot of youthful and defenseless adolescents are victims of malicious rape. 

These streaks of sexual brutality affect them substantially, physically, psychologically and otherwise.

Such acts of violence and sexual harm turns into a route that contributes to so many other social vices and often a path to the self-destruction of these unprotected young girls if they don’t find help.

If these acts of brutality don’t get nipped in the bud, it will shatter the fabric of our society and the world at large.

Often, victims are forced and intimidated to stay mute in the face of a vicious series of violent rape. 

These threats and coercion makes it a struggle for victims to open up to anyone about such issues. And when victims finally open up, they get bullied by the people they confide in to tell their stories, an act that renders them psychologically and emotionally traumatized.

These adolescents end up getting impregnated by their rapists, a condition they find themselves unprepared for, bearing a child at an early age. Some of opt for abortion and often die in the process.

For those that survive, it becomes a psychological disorder that makes these youthful and defenseless girls find comfort in alcohol, drugs, and other social vices. Some of them even end up as school dropouts due the effect of rape and the consequences become endless.

Victims most times are very vulnerable, rude, disrespectful, and aggressive. Because of what they’ve been through their lives becomes miserable. They live in fear, hardly trusting anyone and often becoming wild. 

Look around you today – there are so many vulnerable children on our streets, many of them are drug addicts and a substantial number of them are victims of sexual abuse. As humans, we need to understand that the abused child is fighting a battle caused by a terrible experience.

Therefore, I believe “they need love not hate, help not bully and a confidant they can trust.” We need to help them discover their inner strength and God-given talent, because the event of rape makes them regard themselves as weak, useless and vulnerable. These helpless girls need the inner strength to help them fight their fears and weaknesses.

My story is a precedent of what defenseless young girls go through.

As a victim of sexual abuse, I was molested from the age of seven till I was fourteen. This is the most awful experience of my life. 

I grew up with a man I thought was my dad, not knowing he wasn’t. And he took advantage of my innocence at a very tender age.

He made my mum despise me so much that we became enemies. To him, that was the only way to make my mum not to listen to me whenever I tried telling her what I was going through.

My mum hated me so much that she had broken my head with a rod so many times, cut my vagina, and put hot chili pepper on the cuts.

She didn’t find out why a calm child like me became so stubborn or why I started running away from home from the age of 10. Whenever I returned home, she would beat me and put hot chili pepper in my eyes and on my private parts.

She only believed what her husband told her. 

When I turned 14 years old, she found out that I had been sexually assaulted by her husband. Around this time, I found out that her husband wasn’t my dad. Two years after my mum discovered her husband molested me, she couldn’t deal with it. She died, and the rape continued.

I remember trying to commit suicide so many times. 

I dropped out of school and most of the men that got to know my story called off our engagement. Whenever these men find out about my story, they say they “can’t be with a lady like me”, that I’m a “cursed child.”

This is a cross I still carry till today.

In the year 2016, in the United States of America, an American Professor heard my story and advised me to write a book about my life. 

It wasn’t a straightforward thing to do, but finally I had the courage to publish my book, which I entitled “I Called Him Dad” by Fatima Ishiaku – a book that was published in the United States.

I had to tell my painful story in my book so that society will see what abused girls go through in our society, mostly In Nigeria. 

My book is about saving the girl child and breaking the silence. It’s a very educational book based on my true-life story. “I Called Him Dad” is my painful story.

The best part is me using my painful story to help victims like myself.

There’s light at the end of the dark tunnel. 

My pain became my beautiful testimony.

Today I run a registered non-governmental organization “House of Fatima for Abused Girls Foundation”. This foundation caters to the needs of sexually abuse girls and boys in our society. I finally went back to school and now I am a graduate of Sociology from one of the best Universities in Nigeria. 

I’m using my story to help victims, to educate mothers on how they can protect their children from sexual abuse and help parents identify the signs to look out for. I emphasise the need for parents to listen to their children whenever they want to talk to them. To read the complete version of my story you can pick up my book on Amazon. Use this link:

As I conclude, everyone, both old and young needs to understand that there is power in their voice and that they should never allow anybody to silence them. Speaking out will make a difference. It will expose the intent of rapists and bring to justice those that are into these acts.

  • “We say No to any kind of abuse.”
  • “We stand against gender-based violence.” 
  • “We stand against child marriage.”

Every girl child deserves an education and it is her fundamental right to be happy.

There is great power in our voice. 

You can visit our social media for more information:


Instagram: @houseoffatima_ng

Twitter: @houseoffatimang

Facebook: House of Fatima for Sexually Abused Girls

DAY THREE: Returning Home And Violence Within The Home: COVID-19 and multiple gendered violations

This post, while engaging with some of the reasons around the rise of domestic violence, will primarily look into the multiple meanings and metaphors associated with home that the pandemic has made us confront.

Rukmini Sen

The COVID 19 public health crisis and the subsequent lockdown has generated discussions about the ‘shadow pandemic’ of the rise of gender based domestic violence. This post, while engaging with some of the reasons around the rise of domestic violence, will primarily look into the multiple meanings and metaphors associated with home that the pandemic has made us confront. As a part of the 16-day activism against GBV, and the UN Women theme ‘Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect’ with a special focus on pandemic induced heightened domestic violence, I  will briefly assess what are the multiple ways in which home has been confronted the pandemic. I see contestations around five meanings of home emerging in this crisis all of which have gender based implications and consequences.

All of us by now have been made conscious about the need to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus. In India, which this post focuses on, the first advisory came on March 16, directing closure of schools, regulations on mass gathering, ensuring physical distancing of minimum 1 metre between tables in restaurants, postponement of examinations, avoidance of non-essential travel. It was only a matter of time before we understood that the implications of stay at home in conjunction with work from home was going to be serious for gender based household work over and above the impact of professional work space moving inside the home.

The public discourse of Stay at home meant the homeless and the urban pavement dweller were excluded from the discussion

It has also had hierarchical implications depending upon the space inside an individual home—how many rooms, how many people in each room, how many members having their own electronic gadget to connect to the world outside the home? Space, privacy, personal phones all have gendered implications and there have been specific studies about women’s inadequate access to smartphones in India, before the pandemic.

Work from home for most of urban upper middle class women in India has meant a disproportionate increase in domestic labour. Finding  work life balance becomes difficult if not impossible because the increase in care work, in addition to the professional work all from the confines of the home. Middle class professional households were without assistance from paid domestic helps for at least the first two months of the lockdown and this impacted on women’s lives in manifold ways.

Traveling to the workplace is an important liberating journey for most women, including college going women students.

These sites, however gendered in themselves, still create the possibilities of travel, self time, friendships, conversations—away from caste-kinship determined existence within the home. While this situation is experienced by professional service sector women, the pandemic has increased the gender gap in employment. According to Ashwini Deshpande women employed in the pre-lockdown phase were 23.5 percentage points less likely than men to be employed post-lockdown.

A third type of discussion around the home has happened in regard to violence within the home or domestic violence. It is necessary to remember that the stay at home, work from home advisories and experiences were clearly creating a condition for increase in domestic violence. According to National Commission for Women, domestic violence could have increased by 2.5 times during the lockdown. Some of the reasons for physical as well as verbal abuse as reported are ‘not managing resources properly’, ‘not serving food on time’, and also ‘not being able to procure rations/relief material’.

Specifically, in Tamil Nadu the reasons for increase in violence within the home were arguments arising out of sharing household work, suspicion over time spent on social media, unemployment resulting in a cash crunch at home etc. One of the main strategies for tackling COVID 19 -related rises in domestic violence has been to increase helpline services by various women’s rights, child rights and sexuality rights organisations in different Indian cities and a WhatsApp helpline number set up by the National Commission for Women. However, finding the opportunity to report cases with most members of the household also indoors has become even more difficult.

Indian migrant workers during the COVID 19 pandemic. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Images of migrant workers—a bulk of whom were women with children walking back home, travelling unimaginable distances by foot due to the sudden announcement of nation wide lockdown, are now global. What this clearly demonstrated is that big cities do not become homes for migrant labourers, they come there to work, mostly as construction workers and short term migrant workers face a complete sense of precarity if there is no daily work in the city. It is impossible to survive in the metropolis, to pay rent, buy food without wages. Seasonal migration for construction, migration in the city for sex work or bar dancer, migration due to agricultural purposes are to be understood as conditions where the worker comes back home when the work ends or goes to another place in search of work. Thousands of migrant workers walking back several days to reach home—where they could at least find food and the security of other members of the community —signify which is really shelter.

Finally, the anxiety and hope of home coming for many students who stay in halls of residence away from their parents, or in rented apartments in cities where they work, within or outside the country, away from their original natal or marital homes. Travelling back home for a certain class of people, takes a flight or an AC train to ‘come’ home/country of original residence has been disrupted and shaken up in ways that has never happened in the recent past. People of all genders are affected by this, but for women students or professional single women, the isolation during these months and its deep psychological impact are sure to have far reaching consequences.

The pandemic crisis opened up a sociological insight to the gendered site of the home as contested between the metaphors of caged, sheltered, violent and secure.

Rukmini Sen is Professor of Sociology, School of Liberal Studies, Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi. You can contact her at