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...
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