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The Naked Truth: Culture clash over sacred mountain photos

The Naked Truth: Culture clash over sacred mountain photos

The Naked Truth: Culture clash over sacred mountain photos

Eleanor Hawkins, from Derby, England, has pleaded guilty to ‘obscene acts’ after posing naked for a photo on a Malaysian Mountain.

The 23 year-old was in a group of ten other tourists who stripped nude for a euphoric photo at the summit of Mount Kinabalu on 30th May. Nothing out of the ordinary, you may think, as there are hundreds of similar images of travellers taking their clothes off around the world for the social media ‘likes’

However, less than a week after the said photograph was taken, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the mountain, resulting in 18 fatalities and left hundreds of people stranded. Malaysian officials claimed that the travellers had angered the mountain spirits and had caused the earthquake. Mount Kinabalu is Malaysia’s highest mountain at over 13,000ft and is considered sacred. A local official claims that the group “insulted the indigenous people” of Malaysia as the Kadazan Dusun tribe believe the mountain holds their ancestors’ spirits and carry out rituals to appease them. It is common practice for guides to tell tourists to be respectful.

Hawkins, a graduate from Southampton University with a masters in aeronautical engineering was arrested at Kuala Lumpur airport. She was brought to court wearing a balaclava. Hawkins has been sentenced to three days in prison and fined almost £900. The maximum sentence for her crime is three months. As Hawkins has already been held in custody for three days, the judge revealed that her sentence had been served and would be deported back to the UK.

Hawkins’ father told the British media that his daughter knows that what she did was “stupid” and is “very sorry”. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have said that the incident is a legal matter for the Malaysian courts and it would be inappropriate for them to comment.

Canadian siblings Lindsey and Danielle Petersen and an unnamed Dutch man have also entered guilty pleas with Hawkins.


Indeed, Hawkins recognises that she was “stupid” and disrespectful after she was caught and prosecuted. This case highlights a fundamental lack of cultural awareness. That these Western travellers thought that it was acceptable to strip on a sacred mountain indicates an imbedded disregard for other culture, an inbuilt assumption that whatever they do will be fine as they are just having a laugh or of a privileged culture. Hopefully, the upset that Hawkins’ case provoked in Britain will persuade other young travellers to be more wary of local customs and not to “live for the likes.”

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