12 Jun 2015

Exposed: why naked photos offended many in Malaysia

When travelling abroad it is a good idea not to make the locals mad. A lesson learned, perhaps, by four backpackers who pleaded guilty to committing an “obscene act in a public place” in Malaysia.

When travelling in foreign lands it is a good idea not to make the locals mad. A lesson learned, perhaps, by four backpackers who today pleaded guilty to committing “obscene act in a public place” in a Malaysian courtroom.


The defendants – Eleanor Hawkins of Britain, 24 – along with Dutchman, Dylan Snel and Canadian siblings Lindsey and Danielle Petersen –¬†were sentenced to three days in prison after taking nude photographs on a mountain that many people in Malaysia consider to be sacred.

They were freed this evening for time served and will soon be deported, according to their lawyer.

Their crime seems relatively harmless. They shed their clothes on the summit of Mount Kinabalu on the island of Borneo for what is known in certain circles as the “naked summit photo”.

The court heard that the nudists challenged each other to take off their clothes in the chilly mountain air, ignoring the protestations of their guide. The men stripped off completely while the women went topless.

The pictures were posted online and widely shared, angering many in Malaysia. Indecent exposure is frowned upon in a country where the majority are Muslims.

Some in Malaysia, including the deputy chief minister of the region, suggested that the naked photos had angered spirits believed to dwell on the mountain, triggering a powerful earthquake on 5 June that killed 18 people.

Tim Hawkins, the father of Eleanor, released a statement saying he had spoken to his daughter, who was “obviously quite scared and upset”.

“She knows she did something stupid and disrespectful and is very sorry for the offence that she has caused the Malaysian people.”

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