French Tourists Given Jail Terms in Sri Lanka for “Kissing Buddha” Photos

It’s standard procedure for photo labs around the world to contact authorities if illegal activity is discovered in pictures, but what constitutes “illegal activity” can different widely from place to place. Case in point: three French tourists were recently given jail terms in Sri Lanka for photographs they took containing Buddha statues.

The photographs showed the tourists posing with the statues, and in at least one of them (shown above), one of tourist was pretending to kiss a statue.

After dropping the pictures off at a photo lab to have prints made, the owner of the lab noticed the images and alerted authorities. The two women and one man were then detained and charged with “wounding the religious feelings of Buddhists by taking pictures deemed insulting.”

A magistrate later sentenced the trio to six months of prison with hard labor, and also a small fine. The punishment was “suspended for five years”, though, meaning the tourists won’t actually be serving any of the jail time or doing any of the hard labor. Their punishment is therefore a wrist slap and a fine.

The next time you’re traveling abroad, you should think twice about snapping photographs that are potentially offensive — those pictures might actually be illegal.

(via eTurboNews via Boing Boing)

  • ryan datwerp

    Chris – the more you write, the more ignorant you come across – the suggestion that “all the black folks in America” are white-haters is absurd and offensive. You belong on the Fox site with jibberish like that. Why not give it a go – you’ll find some good company over there.

  • Matt

    Sorry, but you failed there, Heroin is not something to be made light of…ever.

  • Massive Audience

    Exactly. Claiming that we have no right to judge other cultures leads to the idea that we have no right to judge sub-cultures, or even micro-cultures! Once you start down the path of relativism, there is no legitimate way to critique a cultural practice. For example, at one time, slavery was an accepted cultural practice, but if the authority of what is right and wrong lies with the cultural majority, what recourse would there have been for reform?

  • Matt

    Sorry, but no it is not vandalizm. Nothing but feelings were harmed. And, too bad. People are wrong to force others to act in anyway.

  • Massive Audience

    Guest was not making light of heroin.


    God bless America

  • No Audience

    So you believe in something impossible to prove? Sound pretty silly to me Mr Audience…

  • NO WE DON’T!

    What in the hell does that have to do with this article. Back in your cave…

  • Waiting Forgodard

    I just got off the phone with that particular Buddha – not only did he enjoy that smooch, but he has now taken to wearing a beret and giving long-winded opinions on the career path of Jean-Luc Godard. I really wish these tourists hadn’t been so silly

  • Jason

    I completely agree Jesse.

  • JaneÅndDoug Howell

    Slaves don’t receive wages. You should go back to Dailey kos or media matters, oh and by the way you should have respect for those that disagree. I work for the wealthy and they’re all nice people, good decent people with families and they care for their employees. These Colonials made it possible for the dirt poor to lift themselves out of poverty!

  • Massive Audience

    Nice try. But you’ve missed the point. I’m a non-believer. That’s the opposite of believing. If you wanted to play word games, you might try this on for size: I believe in the impossibility of proving a negative, which itself is easy to prove by simple appeal to mathematics. So that is much different from believing in something that is impossible to prove. Get it?

  • Matt What

    So if I feel like punching someone randomly in the street, nobody should force me to act otherwise. Weak post. Wasted time.

  • zzzzz

    I think you think you know more than you actually do.

  • JaneÅndDoug Howell

    You mean muslims right not Christians, I heard of stoning in muslim cuntries

  • Massive Audience

    Only I can know what I know. Meanwhile, you can only GUESS as to what I know, and where would that get you? Irrelevant ad hominem point Otto. Do you have anything on topic? If not, I’m moving on.

  • Romney Notax

    I love you Republicans – anyone who disagrees with you is a communist – so glad thinking like yours will soon be a dying ember we no longer have to endure

  • Why bother?

    Jane – respectfully – If you think the serfs of Europe were closer to wage-earning Americans than to slaves, I really do think you might need to beef up on the topic a bit. And the idea that all wealthy people are nice, decent folks doesn’t jibe with anything that history has proven time and time again.

  • Romney Drone

    I’d check that spelling if I were you. And if you think Christians have never stoned, tortured and molested people in the name of Christ, your history is as bad as your grammar.

  • Dave

    When in Rome folks…….I have traveled extensively and lived in three non-US countries. It is insensitive to not have a grasp on your host country BEFORE you visit. Nothing more embarrassing than watching a Western tourist prancing around expecting everyone to adapt to their lifestyle back home. Americans are the worst.

  • 11

    and the brain of that woman..

  • 11

    typo on the ‘irreverent’ .. irrelevant. The point is..
    Christopher, hurting the feelings large mass of people by directly disrespecting the center piece of their belief can be a crime. It may not be for you, but it is for them because they believe in iit in a way that you do not.
    If it done by a 5 year old, kid — understandable. This is a grown up women who is expected to understand and behave well in such places.

    Vandalism is ‘deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity’ of something. In this case physically coming in contact (possibly, but not fully sure from the photograph).

  • 11

    So, in your opinion slapping a dick is bad but kiss by a woman is fine. However, this is your way of drawing the line. Their way of drawing the line is — woman or a man standing and watching is okay, but kissing — too bad and punishable.
    It’s just a level of difference. If in a country, slapping a dick is okay, you should go there and get a lot of it.

  • Keiran Blackwell

    That the assumption that the “values” were clearly defined and explained, the idea that these photos were insulting is in itself offensive. In my experience with the few Buddhists I know I highly doubt they’d be offended. In fact they’d be pretty disgusted by Sri Lanka doing this.

  • Keiran Blackwell

    … because her brain needs repairing? I’m sorry, are you her neurologist? If you are then please discount my sarcastic tone, if not; then feel free to be offended by my condescension of you.

  • Keiran Blackwell

    If the Buddhists think that it doesn’t matter if the Buddha would be offended and only that it matters if THEY are offended… then I’d say they aren’t very good Buddhists.

  • 11

    yes, I am. sarcasm pardoned.

  • 11

    @google-94186653672ce46749c86a01e2653f62:disqus — I am not sure how you’d find out if Buddha would be offended. All I see is people who’s beliefs are fundamentally surrounded around Buddha would be offended. If you suggest people should follow Buddha and forgive this act at all times, you are in a way taking the liberty for granted, which is also shameful.

  • surprise guy

    i am surprised! if he is supposed to be a god, but cant even help himself……!

  • Julian Maytum

    Next time they travel abroad, perhaps they won’t travel to a place with such religious intolerance or a populace and judiciary that still believe in the supernatural. That’s the real story here.

  • Bua

    Just because Buddha wouldn’t be offended doesn’t mean that when you visit a country, that you shouldn’t respect it’s laws and culture. I thought travel was about cultivating tolerance and incorporating good things from other cultures in to yours. This is like having sex with your best friend’s wife. Sure the buddha would have forgiven but it’s still wrong and shouldn’t be encouraged. Although, it does depend on how hot the wife is….. ;P

    On a more serious note, if this was done to a statue of Christ or other, we will probably have one country invading another. Or maybe something like the crusades. So jail terms are nothing I reckon.

  • Bua

    I would agree. They still sometimes do. This is a prime example.

  • It’s not just religion…

    Most temples you find on a sri lankan tourist map tend to be hundreds, or even thousands of years old. The statues are usually not cordoned off unless they’re very old, because most tourists don’t do stupid things like this. The paint and sculpture styles usually hold historic interest and that’s one of the reasons many travelers visit the country in the first place. Even if you’re not buddhist, this is inappropriate behavious. You wouldn’t go to a musaeum and touch the exhibits like this, would you?

  • 11

    @google-94186653672ce46749c86a01e2653f62:disqus — You should leave the judgement to the Buddhists in Sri Lanka to decide what to do. Buddhists might have possibly forgiven her. But, the jail term/fine is only to teach them a lesson, possibly to make them understand civic decency (according to their society) and to avoid such future incidents.

    Expecting forgiveness and taking such liberty for granted only increases the chances of such incidents. One way to curb this is to teach people, and if it fails, is to teach them hard way.

  • 11

    You can make an opinion and keep it to yourself. But you cannot impose your judgement on what they should and should not do.

    Misguided? So, who decided whether is it misguided or not.. again it is you. Unless people of a certain culture have tolerance issues and cry out for help, that culture does not need an external evaluation. They are happy they way they are..

    @ab98a823a73413b7c8586519f1475005:disqus has valid points..

  • Christopher Shelton

    Well, we just completely disagree on this one. I think all cultures could benefit from external evaluation. I can’t believe that your best argument here is that we have no right to say whether 12th century feudalism, for example, was misguided or not.

    In any case I would say throwing people in jail because they do not worship the same idols you do is definitely a tolerance issue.

  • Christopher Shelton

    @Guest has the right to call any belief silly. You, in turn, have the right to call @Guest or her beliefs arrogant. As long as nobody is advocating criminal activity, we all have the right to say “silly” whenever we please.

    Most of us, anyway. In places like Sri Lanka, calling someone’s beliefs silly actually is criminal activity, which is kind of silly if you ask me.

  • Christopher Shelton

    Flag Dancing may be emotionally offensive to some, but it is not a criminal offense in the US. That’s the liberty that the flag stands for.

  • LikeBuddha

    It’s a plaster and wood statue. It’s not Buddha.
    Religious people, as usual, are colossal f**king retards.

  • muitosabao

    This is just a step away from what just happened today in afeganistan: 11 beheaded because they were in a party with music dancing. Guess it was also disrespectful to the local religious habits? Would most commenters here also agree with that? If not, where’s the difference!?

  • dingle

    well, people, in general, are stupid irrational animals that would put so much stock in a fairy tale. on the other hand, when visiting other cultures one should probably observe their laws. i mean, making kissy faces at a crucifix would be in bad taste in france–not sure if you’d get jail time, though–people are just ignorant at the best of times. these fools just got lucky.

  • dingle

    blah blah blah, you’re so smart

  • dingle

    what are you even saying anymore?

  • dennis

    religious fetichism is one of the most dangerous , if not the most dangerous threats to the continuation of the human race

  • Patti Lipsig

    I can understand punishment for touching a work of art [even flash photography can cause damage over time] but “blasphemy” type laws really need to go into the Rubbish Bin of Time.

  • Mike McKallicuffy

    something tells me Gautama Buddha wouldn’t have made as much of a fuss about a statue, I doubt Jesus would have either, but I’m not a religious person.