Tattoos and Taboos

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Tattoos are widely known to represent a person’s social background, status in a group, image or order in the framework of society. Many people see tattoos and piercings as a form of bodily mutilation and modification. Tattoos have been associated with thugs, numbering individuals for slaughter in the Second World War or even identifying one’s blood type or medical condition. Tattoos do have certain health risks like HIV infection or Hepatitis and the fact that they are permanent scares many people away. Stereotypical thought includes one assuming that they are bound to regret a tattoo which adds to the negative attitudes associated with tattoos.

The perception of tattoos depends widely on society, one’s social background and one’s faith. For example, Buddhists and Hindu’s see tattoos as protectors against evil spirits whilst Muslims are forbidden to get tattoos as they are seen to prevent peace with God. Tattoos also widely depend on culture. In Japan, Toru Hashimoto - the mayor of Osaka, launched a campaign against city employees who had tattoos. He made it a requirement for them to fill out paperwork and document exactly what the tattoo was, and where on their body it was located.

In Malta, the traditional mindset against tattoos has stayed strong for years. Most people perceive tattoos as ugly, unprofessional and slovenly. Many disregard that it is an art which expresses one’s inner being and imagination. Self-expression as part of one’s identity is very important and shouldn’t define a person’s skills within the workplace.

Damian Allison, one of the creators of the Facebook group titled ‘Tattooed and pierced… but no less human’  was contacted for comments regarding their group and their cause.

“The group ‘Tattoos and Piercings Acceptance in Malta’ was opened in early July with the aim of breaking down the stereotype that those who choose to modify their body are unreliable or outright criminals. Many people write down their stories and experiences in journals and diaries, others choose to portray them on their bodies.

Today, we have laws protecting gays, transgendered people and those with special needs from being discriminated. We have laws that don’t allow employees to discriminate against a specific gender or age, but in reality there’s another form of discrimination which is rarely talked about. It is people with modified bodies. We feel that these people are no different and they should be judged by their abilities, qualifications and character rather than by the way they look.

So far, over 1700 people have joined our group to show us support and more than 480 people signed our petition. Additionally, on the 9th of November, with the help of Rejects events, we are organizing a charity event for children that suffer from autism. The details are still being worked out as we speak but will definitely have some more information soon.”

Those interested in attempting to eliminate negative attitudes in the workplace and in the media can contribute by finding the group on Facebook and signing a petition.

Overcoming this ingrained mindset in our society is going to be difficult. Maltese culture is widely intolerant of expressing oneself through this medium and minority groups in Malta tend to suffer as their causes usually fall on deaf ears. One must note that we are all individually equal and deserve to be treated in the same way regardless of how we look. It is ultimately a form of self-expression. Society shouldn’t judge a person based on their colour, sexual orientation, marital status or bodily art. Things are changing and for the better but ultimately we are the ones that make up society and reinforce its silent rules.

‘Tattoos and Piercings Acceptance in Malta’ can be found here;

One thought on “Tattoos and Taboos

  1. Toru Hashimoto says:

    ” In Japan, Toru Hashimoto – the mayor of Osaka, launched a campaign against city employees who had tattoos. He made it a requirement for them to fill out paperwork and document exactly what the tattoo was, and where on their body it was located. ”

    This is of course, because the Japanese Yakuza mafia are required to have full body tattoos or “irezumi”, so therefore such a measure would enable them to combat this organized crime problem.

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