Should this woman really be deported over a tattoo?

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This week, a female tourist in Sri Lanka is facing deportation back to the UK because of a tattoo on her arm which depicts Buddha sitting on a lotus leaf. Notoriously sensitive about images of Buddha, this isn’t the first time tourists have been punished for perceived insults to Buddhism. (Read the BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-27107857)

But is this tattoo actually insulting? Should she have been more careful about covering up her tattoo, or is this an overreaction by Sri Lankan authorities? Would be interested to hear your thoughts…

Lottie Gross 23/04/14    General travel chatSri Lanka Link Report

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3 Replies Date Popularity

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Personally I don’t find it offensive or insulting no, but I’m not Sri Lankan. When you travel you conform to fit into the sensitivities of that culture. She didn’t, she paid the price, it’s as simple as that.

Michael Huxley 24/04/14    Link Report

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What do you mean? Travel with the explicit desire to go against specific laws and customs? Well in that case you’ll just end up in hot water, or in the resorts and all day breakfasts in Benidorm won’t you?

I think if you do have something or do something that goes against the laws/customs/practices of a certain country, then hide it and keep it behind the closed doors of a private room, if you flaunt whatever it is in public, you are asking for trouble and will be punished by that country’s standards. That isn’t a personal belief from me as such but just simple fact.

Michael Huxley 09/05/14    Link Report

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I’m interested in how far you think this goes. Of course you need to be respectful of the prevailing views where you travel, and also mindful of the law. But in your experience, are there situations where travellers should go somewhere even when they don’t intend to conform to certain laws or practices? Provided that they understand the risks, of course!

Rebecca Hallett 28/04/14    Link Report

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I’m inclined to say she should’ve covered it – the FCO talks about it, and it seems obvious to me to check what to do with tattoos when travelling, especially tattoos of religious images. While it might feel odd that her tattoo is breaking the law, you have to accept the different views and rules of different societies when you travel to them. If you don’t, I guess you just don’t go there!

That said, deportation seems a little harsh, especially as she said she was travelling elsewhere later and asked if she could just go there instead! And it sounds like she had a pretty awful experience of the criminal justice system, especially with not speaking the language…

Rebecca Hallett 23/04/14    Link Report

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As a traveller she should be sensitive to the possibility that this could cause offence and take care to cover up. Whilst we may find it innocuous, other cultures do not and when in Rome, one should do as the Romans do. It is easier as a traveller to make friends, enjoy yourself and be safe if you are aware of sensitivities. That said, I also think that deportation is an over-the-top response. Give her a strong talking to, ask her to cover up and send her on her way with a smile …

Ysgf24 23/04/14    Link Report

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