A new anti-groping device is flying off the shelves in Japan, as women try to find new ways to fend off men who continue to harass them on board train stations sexually.
The “anti-groping” stamp is a device produced by a well-known stamp maker in Japan called Shachihata Inc., who reported that they sold out just half an hour after it went on sale in Japan. “I was so surprised how quickly they were sold out,” he said.
Japan has been facing the problem of men furiously and persistently harassing women in 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 “anti-groping” stamps allow victims of harassment to mark their assailants with a palm-shaped image using invisible ink.
The company’s spokesman, Hirofumi Mukai, said that the product is designed primarily as a deterrent, to discourage anyone from groping as they can easily be branded if women caught them. Notably, the ink can be washed off.
Mukai also indicated that the product has an accompanying strap, which women can opt to attach to their bags to show those nearby that a person is carrying the stamp.
According to the company, the anti-groping stamp uses a special ink that only becomes visible under ultraviolet light, but not under sunlight or artificial light. There’s also a black light that comes with the stamp, which can be used to illuminate the 9-millimeter stamped mark.
Though seemingly small and harmless, a limited run of 500 stamps, which retailed at 2,500 yen (about $24), sold out within 30 minutes of going on sale.
In May, a viral tweet about a school doctor who recommended pricking gropers using a safety pin generated mixed responses. Some said that would work as a deterrent, but others stated that the measure could be considered a crime itself.
From the same conversation, Shachihata said it was inspired to develop the stamp instead as a lesser invasive mean of deterring harassers.
A recent Nikkei survey of 1,000 working women found 43 percent had experienced sexual harassment and more than 60 percent did not report it, with some reports suggesting that more than 75 percent of all Japanese women have been groped.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department recorded 1,750 cases of groping or molestation in 2017 – with more than 50 percent of sexual harassment cases taking place on trains and a further 20 percent in train stations.
Only 3 percent of sexual assault victims in Japan tell the police, often due to fears of being blamed themselves and publicly shamed – with many choosing not to tell anyone at all.
In return, Japanese women are also looking to technology to alleviate their worries by at least a fraction. Back in June, the Digi Police app also grew attention and popularity as it functioned as a virtual police officer in the palm of your hands.
The 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.
Back then, 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.
Particularly, the police found the app as an effective way to allow women to call out the harasser and seek help without being vocal about the situation.
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.”
A tweet posted by Shachihata said that the launch of the product was “a small step” toward achieving a society where there are no sex crimes, including groping, and acts of violence. “We will continue to consider ways for us to contribute to society,” the tweet said.
Although it is too early to judge whether or not the product can prevent groping, Shachihata’s move is considered as “very meaningful” and opens up the topic about women being openly harassed.
Following the trial sale, the company plans to revamp the product based on user feedback.