forced tattooing | history | review | source | info | ancient style
Forced tattooing is an ancient practice that
unfortunately is still seen carried out today. It is however and
always has been a rare process but that’s not to say it’s not
happening and that it’s okay. Being forced to have a tattoo is a
traumatic experience that some people find difficult to come to
terms with. The nature of forced tattooing is upsetting and
degrading for a number of reasons, including not being able to give
consent, being humiliated and having to live with it for a lifetime.
Forced tattooing dates back to tribal initiation ceremonies however it is debatable on whether or not this happened. A great number of tribes have a history of tattooing their members for cultural and religious beliefs as they pass into adulthood. Tribal members are often forced or pressured into having a tattoo despite not wanting one for fear that they may be rejected or mocked by others. Fortunately this is not common and most tribal members look forward to their initiation and wear their tattoos with pride.
Another ancient form of forced tattooing is the tattooing of criminals to brand them as dangerous or untrustworthy. The Romans were known to mark repeat offenders making them easy to identify and the process was carried out in other parts of Europe too. In 17th century Japan criminals were tattooed on the forehead, a place difficult to conceal making it apparent to all those who crossed paths with them that they were lawbreakers. Tattoos on criminals were usually distinctive but did not necessarily indicate the crime committed.
With tattooing being linked to criminality it was not only persons of the law inflicting such marks. Prisoners and convicts themselves began to tattoo each other, and not everyone was given the choice to say no. Tattoos on convicts could resemble ranks, life events and much more. Some markings indicate that the wearer is a gang member and having such markings on the body then makes it difficult to leave gang life.
Possibly the most infamous example of forced tattooing comes from the Holocaust, where people were tattooed in concentration camps. The tattoo consisted of a number so that the guards could keep track of those who entered such places. These tattoos were traumatic for all who entered, particularly those of Jewish faith as Jewish law forbids tattoos. Fortunately forced tattoos and tattoos needed for medical reasons are exempt from this law. Survivors of the Holocaust have been known to hide or remove their tattoos whilst other choose to leave them visible, as a reminder of the tragic events that took place.
In today’s society we still come across examples of forced tattoos, often for revenge reasons or as a power status. For example, there have been accounts where jealous lovers have tattooed crude words onto the skin of ex partners without their consent. Fortunately this is not seen often but the idea that it does happen is unsettling for many.
Emma is keen writer with an interest in tattoos and piercings. She often writes about the aftercare of tattoos and the importance of using high quality tattoo ink.