When travelling abroad it’s important to be aware of other people’s cultures and customs to avoid causing offence. Naomi Coleman was unaware that having a tattoo of Buddha could see her deported from Sri Lanka.
The 37-year-old nurse was travelling from India to Sri Lanka. When she arrived in the country on Monday 21 April, immigration officers noticed her tattoo.
While it is not against Sri Lankan laws to depict Buddha in a tattoo, senior immigration official Chulananda Perera believed that, “Some Sri Lankans could get offended”.
Claiming that the tattoo made Coleman ‘vulnerable’, a court decided to deport her.
Coleman returned to London on Thursday. She told Reuters: “I just want to get out of this place. I have come twice to Sri Lanka, but I have never faced this with my tattoo.”
She added: “If there is a rule like this, Sri Lankan authorities should clearly say that Buddha tattoos are banned. I am a practicing Buddhist and Buddhism is all about compassion and kindness.”
In some countries tattoos are frowned upon and associated with crime. In Japan, tattoos are very much connected with their organised crime gangs, the Yakuza. In fact, in Osaka, Mayor Hashimoto is so opposed to tattoos that he banned city workers from getting new tattoos. Some workers have been fined for having them.
In Arkansas, USA, a bill was passed that outlaws certain tattoos, piercings and body modifications that are considered non-traditional. However, the language of the bill is somewhat vague leaving uncertainty about what is actually considered illegal.
And in New South Wales, Australia, lawmakers have proposed a law that requires people to register their tattoos. The idea being that the activities of biker gangs, which are a serious criminal problem in Australia, could be tracked through the register. Opponents of the proposal fear that law-abiding citizens with tattoos would be forced to register and therefore be placed in the same category as gangs and criminals.