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Are Tattoos illegal in Nigeria?

Are Tattoos illegal in Nigeria?

A tattoo is a form of body modification that is made by inserting inks, paints, dyes, or pigments to make some inscriptions or drawings/paintings on the human body which can either be temporary or permanent.

Tattoos evolved from an old cultural background as a means of identity; used as a mark of identifying a particular tribe or culture an individual hails from; that was the initial concept for the ancient tattoo. Later on, tattoos cascaded into fun fares and became a thing done for body positivity and to boost self-image and self-confidence.

Generally speaking, there is no law in Nigeria (as of this moment) outrightly criminalizing tattoos. Therefore, wearing a tattoo is not banned or prohibited by our laws in Nigeria but there are some government agencies or organizations that outright prohibit it as a matter of their internal policy for members or intending members of that organization to wear tattoos on their bodies. For instance, one of the criteria for joining the Nigerian military service is that you must not have any tattoos on your body, if you do have any, it is expected of you; you are even mandated to clean them off before joining the military service.

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In many other countries of the world; especially the liberal/secular countries, tattoos are legal and there is no outright ban or prohibition on them; in fact in the USA and other countries that have taken the liberty crusade to a whole new level, a person who is denied joining an organization for the reason of being tattooed can file a legal action against that organization for discrimination.

While in some other countries, especially countries that are practising the Sharia laws, tattoos are not just morally frowned upon but it is also criminalized in the Sharia laws.

Some other countries are just indifferent about tattoos; it is neither legally banned nor is it legally recognized. 

Some countries like; Denmark, Turkey, Iran, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, (UAE), Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Saudi Arabia etc morally and legally frown at citizens or residents wearing tattoos.  In the majority of these Islamic countries, tattoos are regarded as “Haram” and in some other secular states, you are allowed to have a tattoo but it should never be on a conspicuous part of your body where it will easily be seen in the public like the face, neck, lower limbs.

Understandably, some morality police still look at those with tattoos with so much disdain even in countries where it is not prohibited, they regard modifying one’s body with inks and paints as immoral and also a sign of a spiritual or mental problem. Some societies tend to see those that wear tattoos as bad guys; truth be told that people that feel this way about those that are tatted are not far from the truth, tattoos were initially worn by prisoners and societal misfits. Prisoners used it as a mark to identify themselves or loyalty to the gangs they pay allegiance to in the prison yard.

Despite the stereotypes that surround tattoos in today’s society, tattoos are not illegal in Nigeria and those wearing them are not criminals; to some persons, it is just a fashion statement while to some it is a way of boosting self-confidence.


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