Wednesday, June 24, 2015

UPDATED: Taboo Sri Lanka - Words of warning to unsuspecting Travelers, Visitors and Expats

Did you hear about a group of four foreign travelers who recently posed naked for photos on the top of Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia and who were subsequently arrested, jailed and fined for committing an obscene act? If you haven't, then check out this article or google it. Such incidents with travelers visiting sacred sites or foreign places seem to have become the ever-increasing norm. I recall a recent CNN article published in March of this year titled "Global laws you may not have realized you were breaking" that highlights how easy it is to run afoul of local laws when traveling abroad. Sri Lanka is on their checklist as being strict when it comes to respecting the Buddhist religion. This had me thinking about some of the recent incidents closer to home and the lack of awareness of what's taboo (or more importantly, illegal) in Sri Lanka.

Last year, one widely reported incident involved a British tourist who was deported from Sri Lanka for having a tattoo of the Buddha on her arm. There was another case a few years back where French tourists were jailed for having taken photos posing with Buddha statues that were deemed insulting and disrespectful to the Buddhists. There are also many others relating to various offenses of this nature. However, these are not the only things where you can find yourself either on the wrong side of the law, or thrown out of the country. And for this reason, it's probably essential to learn a few things about what are some of the things that are either illegal or taboo in Sri Lanka. As they say, forewarned is forearmed!

Mistreatment of Buddhist images and artifacts and disrespect the religion

The incident involving the British tourist and her visible tattoo of the Buddha falls under this area of offence in Sri Lanka. So too the French tourists who were jailed for posing inappropriately and taking photos with Buddhist statues. Chapter XV of the Sri Lankan Penal Code 1886, on offences related to religion, 291A states: “Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment ..., or with fine, or with both.

Some foreign travel advisories for Sri Lanka now explicitly state you can be refused entry or deported from Sri Lanka for having visible tattoos of the Buddha or posing and taking photos in front of (i.e. with your back to) a Buddha statue. Both are deemed serious offenses...

** Please note, the full blog post has been removed as parts of the blog content will be edited for inclusion in an upcoming publication by the author. More information will be made available on the Adventures in a Tuk-Tuk Blog in due course **


Anonymous said...

At Unawatuna Beach Resort Hotel (UBS) I have seen topless bathing going on. No one appeared to care. The woman did not get cited. This may be the exception though.

Eva Stone said...

I'm sure exceptions are often made at tourist resorts around Sri Lanka, however, it's good to know and take into account the local perspective (especially away from tourist resorts)

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