It was in 2016 I was exposed to the tattoo “punishment” in Bhutan. Yes! You read it correct – “punishment”. I never imagined that an ignorance of young and wild minds will turn out to be a life changer while applying for jobs or training when they attain maturity. In the BBS issue of 6th September 2016, I read of a young graduate interested to join police officer, but was disqualified as he had tattoos on his hand. The reason of not wanting people with tattoos in armed forces: tattoos and social stigma.The story doesn’t end there. I was having a conversation with one of the lecturers of our Technical Training Institute [TTI] in December 2016 on the selection process followed in TTIs. It was then I came to know that TTIs doesn’t recruit students with tattoos on any parts of the body. Even the presence of small tattoos comes in the way of aspiring candidate’s dream of becoming a skilled worker to build the nation. This I felt was too harsh a “punishment”.
While, I understand that tattoos have never been in the culture and tradition of Bhutanese [I stand to be corrected], we have to acknowledge that tattoos have always had an important role in ritual and traditions of some cultures. In the recorded history, the earliest tattoos were found in Egypt during the time of the construction of great pyramids and many anthropologists believe that it might have existed much earlier. Today tattooing can be seen as an art and it is gaining popularity and is accepted than it has ever been.
However tattoo story is not just in Bhutan: armed forces in US and some developed countries also do not recruit candidates with tattoos on prominent areas. However, US government has relaxed its rules on tattoos and rightly so! On the other hand Buddhist countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka are cracking down on tourists who expose religious-themed tattoos as they consider religious tattoos to be culturally inappropriate and believe that it might lead to the erosion of respect to the native religion.
With time, I think it is about time we re-consider some of our belief systems and avoid tagging tattoos with “immoral” human beings and look at it as an art. Tattoos should be viewed as a form of body art and deserve to be accepted in the society like any form of art. This being said, I support the stand of armed forces to certain extent provided their selection is based on types and size of tattoos and where the tattoos are on their body. We definitely do not want our armed officers with culturally sensitive tattoos on their forehead. Similar may be applied while selecting students for our TTIs. Why should we close doors to those students who have body arts as we would never know they may land up being the top most contributors to our nation building processes.
Let’s try to get beyond the framework of our logic sometimes and not worry of being logically correct, after-all what is deemed “logically” correct is also being designed by humans. We might want to avoid being slaves of our own logic.