Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sri Lanka: Tattoo Selection Goes Well Beyond Self-Expression When Abroad

Self-expression in terms of time pieces, eye-wear, necklaces, ear-rings and even tattoos are at the foundation of most societies, yet personal choices do have their limits, particularly when traveling to countries which embrace very conservative laws as they relate to religion.

Recently, a young Dutch woman, 26, traveled from her home in The Netherlands to Sri Lanka in the company of her fiancé.

Unfortunately, as the young woman and her husband-to-be dined at a fine restaurant, she failed to recognize the negative significance of displaying a tattoo of Budhha on her bare back for all to see. 

After seeing the tattoo on the back of the Dutch woman, Subsequently, a young Sri Lankan in the restaurant contacted local police who came to the restaurant and proceeded to arrest her for desecrating an image of Buddha.

At this, the young woman profusely apologized for not showing proper respect to Buddha by wearing a tattoo of the Prophet.

Nevertheless, she was taken before a magistrate, fined Rs1,000 (equivalent to US$7.90) and released after payment of the fine.  

The Dutch woman no doubt will cover her Buddha completely on future trips to Sri Lanka.

COMMENT: In a related case, in August 2012, three French tourists visiting Sri Lanka permitted themselves to be photographed kissing a statue of Buddha. Subsequently, they dropped the film off to have processed at a local photo lab, only to have the owner contact the police when he saw the disrespectful photos. 

A local magistrate later sentenced the trio to six months of prison with hard labor as well as a fine.  Yet, upon sentencing the magistrate suspended the sentence for five years, thereby enabling the tourists to learn a powerful lesson about religious sensitivities in Sri Lanka. 

For the benefit of our readers, please consider purchasing some of the CULTURE SHOCK series of books on 48 individual countries so that you avoid violating any local or religious mores. To purchase these books go to: