Tattoo parlours or parlours of death? | Daily News


Tattoo parlours or parlours of death?

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka awarding a total of Rs 800,000 – Rs 600,000 as compensation and Rs 200,000 as cost--to the British national Naomi Coleman who was arrested and deported for having a Buddha tattoo on her right upper arm recently, tattoos have returned to the limelight. The Supreme Court said her fundamental rights had been breached and that a Magistrate could not issue a deportation order on the basis that a deportation order against a foreigner must only be made by the Subject Minister.

A tattoo, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘form of body modification where a design is made by inserting ink, dyes and pigments, either indelible or temporary, into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment.’

Tattoos fall into three broad categories: purely decorative (with no specific meaning); symbolic (with a specific meaning pertinent to the wearer); pictorial (a depiction of a specific person or item). Tattoos have long been associated with ‘the west’ with the uncivilised and over the last 100 years with sailors and working men. In Sri Lanka in the days of yore, tattoos were mostly worn by convicted criminals who had undergone prison terms, notorious characters and vagabonds.

Even in the present, the armed forces and Police in Sri Lanka do not recruit tattooed applicants.

Fashion accessory

Naomi Coleman

But, by the 20th Century, most of the stigma attached to tattoos has faded away. Tattoos have become fashionable. The present Sri Lankan younger generation, with easy access to social media, Western and South Indian films and wrestling programmes on TV that has become its perennial favourites, has taken up tattooing with a vengeance, moving tattoos into the realm of being a fashion accessory for people of all genders. In this climate of ‘live and let live,’ tattoos, though they may be distasteful for some elderly people can be dismissed as a passing fad, if not for one very disturbing fact, the threat to the young generation of the country posed by unlicensed and unregulated tattoo parlours is immense, with the possibility of blood-borne syndromes and diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis B reaching epidemic proportions.

Even though needles used for tattooing should be disposed of after being used on one person due to reasons of hygiene, we have come across several instances of tattooing needles being used again and again on multiple persons thereby increasing the odds of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis B spreading among the group most attracted to tattooing, youth.

This is a very serious situation, which had, unfortunately, escaped the scrutiny of the relevant authorities.

‘Tattoo parlours’ in Colombo and outstations

In our research, we have come across several ‘tattoo parlours’ in Colombo and outstations, notably in the areas frequented by tourists such as Hikkaduwa and Pinnawala, with a large clientele of Sri Lankan youth.

In our discussions with the proprietors and operators of these tattoo parlours, it was revealed that none of these establishments are licensed, and none of the tattoo artistes are trained or licensed to practice.

When inquiries were made from the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), it was revealed that, even though there are several tattoo parlours operating in the City of Colombo, none of them are registered with the CMC, and the CMC has not issued a single operating license for a tattoo parlour inside Colombo City limits.

The situation remains the same with other provincial and rural administration bodies regarding tattoo parlours operating within their jurisdiction. The Police are also helpless to intervene in the absence of rules and regulations pertaining to tattoo parlours.

The attention of authorities should be drawn to this serious health issue threatening the backbone of the country, the youth generation of Sri Lanka. 

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