If there’s one thing recent reports can tell you, it’s that public transportation does not exclude women from being molested, abused, or harassed. In Japan, the problem is so bad that women have resulted in seeking the aid of an application to save them from harassers.
In the age of technology and growing consciousness, people ought to believe that others would act appropriately in public transportation — provide a safe place for women along with the idea that there are dozens of other people crammed in a small place lending their eyes and ears. However, others arrogantly and blatantly disregard the idea and let their libido take the best of them.
In Japan, women have to be constantly aware and consciously avoid instances with men who repeatedly gropes and molests them while en routing to their destinations aboard train cars. The Japanese calls the situation chikan — an illegal act the Japanese government has been actively trying to prevent but continues to persist.
“The chikan issue didn’t make headlines until 1988 when a woman on the Midosuji Line in Osaka saw a man groping a girl and told him to stop. Angered, the man intensified his attack and then he and another man dragged the girl off the train, took her to a construction site and raped her. No one stopped them. […] She says that what people took away from the story was that it was better to say nothing,” says The Japan Times.
In recent years, Japan has implemented measures such as stricter legislation on anti-sexual harassment laws, more CCTVs in train stations, and providing women-only trains cars — a band-aid solution that Japan implemented for almost two decades now.
A number of countries adopted the same policies with intentions to address the problem. Women-only train carriages have also been implemented in other countries like India, Brazil, Egypt, Iran, and Mexico. However, recent proposals to introduce them in the U.K. met with objections, with critics saying such a measure fails to tackle the problem at its root.
In contrast with Japan’s rich history of patriarchal regimes, it has allowed a consciousness ruled by misogyny — making it difficult to police and control men’s indecent behavior towards women.
The Japan Times reported that “less than 10 percent of train groping victims actually report their attacks. The reasons are various, but mainly have to do with the fear of not being believed or of arriving late to work. Meanwhile, underground groups of chikan trade tips on the internet about the best times and places to partake of their pastime.”
In return, Japanese women are also looking to technology to alleviate their worries by at least a fraction. The Digi Police app enables victims of groping to activate a voice shouting “Stop it!” at ear-piercing volume or bring up a full-screen message reading, “There is a molester. Please help” that they can show to other passengers.
Digi Police has been downloaded more than 237,000 times since it was introduced three years ago – an “unusually high figure” for a public-service app, according to police.
“Thanks to its popularity, the number [of downloads] is increasing by about 10,000 every month,” said police official Keiko Toyamine.
Toyamine said victims were often reluctant to call for help, but the app’s SOS message allows them to alert other passengers while staying silent.
The Tokyo metropolitan police department recorded almost 900 cases of groping and other forms of harassment on trains and subways in the capital in 2017.
Notably, Japan is not the only country facing these kinds of issues. Women all over the world — both from developing and developed countries — constantly have to use public transportation with their heads over their shoulders at all times.
A Reuters survey of 16 major cities worldwide found that women in Latin American cities suffered the highest rates of harassment, with about 6 in 10 women physically harassed on transport systems.
Bogota, the capital of Colombia, was the most dangerous city examined in the Reuters survey, with women saying they were scared to use transport after dark. In Mexico City, 64 percent of women said they’d been groped or physically harassed on public transportation.
Research shows, this is a global phenomenon. In a 2009 survey in Delhi, India, 95 percent of women said their mobility was limited by fear of harassment in public places. And in a Kenyan study from Women’s Empowerment Link, states that more than 50 percent of the 381 women interviewed said they had experienced gender-based harm while using public transportation.
Neither women-only train cars nor increased CCTV will not stop men from misbehaving — the threat of imprisonment also does not help. Educating men how and why their actions are wrong are what experts say to be the best solution to the problem. However, when people choose to stay silent in harassment issues, it’s only bound to make absolving the problem harder.