Local Balinese community members are expressing their horror, frustration, and anger as yet another tourist has been caught posing nude at a sacred site. In photos, that have since been taken down from social media, a young foreign model can be seen posing naked beneath a seven-hundred-year-old eucalyptus tree at the Babakan Temple.
In the Bayan Traditional Village, where Babakan Temple can be found, community members are disgusted and offended that such behavior could possibly be let to slide by authorities. They believe that the woman in question must have snuck into the temple grounds at dawn before pecalang, traditional Balinese community security guards, arrived to open the temple for the day.
In the video, the model appears to sit beneath the Kayu Putih tree completely naked. In Balinese culture, the Kayu Putih, also known as the Banyan Tree, represents eternal life due to its expansive canopy and characteristic, far-reaching root system. Banyan Trees are often gathered around during Balinese Hindu ceremonies and are held in reverence. For anyone to pose next to a Banyan Tree without wearing temple appropriate clothing, let alone be naked, is considered deeply sacrilegious.
When speaking to local journalists nearby villager Ni Luh Jelantik said that it was he who contacted the police and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. He believes that there should be a full criminal investigation for such acts, not only looking into which laws have been violated but also investigating the woman in question’s right to be in Indonesia. If she is found to have broken laws, specifically those around pornography, public indecency, and vandalism of a holy place, that she should be deported.
The Head of the Marga Police, AKP I Gede Budiarta confirmed that his police force was looking into the matter. He said his teams were ‘still conducting investigations and contacting figures in the Babakan area’ regarding the incident.
Locals are hoping that justice will be served in both a legal and traditional sense. It is customary across Bali that if an act of desecration is committed in a holy place that a full cleansing ceremony must take place to clear both the perpetrator and the holy grounds to clear the space of the negative energy.
Outrage from Balinese online commentators across the island has been clear to see. This incident comes as the second of its kind in the space of a month. Balinese are tired and frustrated that their holy sites and culture at large are being disrespected by travelers who feel it is appropriate to pose naked for the sake of a quick photo.
In addition to the deeply offensive nature of indecent exposure at holy sites, these events oppose Indonesia’s very conservative views on nudity. Indonesia has a zero-tolerance policy for pornography and has increasingly strict societal views about nudity, modesty and the way women should dress more generally.
Although Bali has a largely Hindu culture, the majority of the Indonesian population is Muslim, holding very conservative views across the board. In Aceh, in the far north of Sumatra, women of any faith or nationality are not permitted to wear bathing suits that expose their skin. Women must wear a head covering in public and failure to do so has resulted in public floggings.
The case comes after the headline-hitting news that a 33-year-old Canadian named Jeffery Douglas Craigen had been detained by immigration officers after he danced naked at the top of Mount Batur. The mountain in Kintamani is another hugely significant holy site for Balinese people. He is currently facing deportation and remains in the custody of the local authorities awaiting trial.
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