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By Nora Devine

Find Out What it Means To Me

The solution to groping on trains isn’t segregation; It’s respect

Nora Devine, a freelance writer, is an intern at Metropolis

I want the last word on this one. Recently I read in Metropolis’s Small Print section that a Tokyo city survey found that 64 percent of women had at some time in their lives been groped while riding the train. The survey also found that many of these women, who when groped did not protest to avoid making a scene, called for separate cars for men and women.

On some trains, this procedure is already in effect. Hankyu line express trains running between Osaka and Kyoto have one car designated as women-only, with pink and white signs proclaiming so next to every door. A station agent does a walk-through and shoos out any misguided men. Women in this car ride worry-free of molesters. However, this should definitely not be considered a solution, and I want to set these women straight.

Segregation of the sexes will not change the type of thinking that leads men to molest women on trains, or the mindset that prevents most women from stopping or reporting these incidents. Segregation of the sexes only avoids the problem, which stems from a lack of respect for women and a culture that tends to avoid shame and embarrassment at all costs. While this culture of shame-avoidance is not something that will likely change, basic respect for women should be a top priority, and crimes like this should carry heavy consequences.

Molesters depend on a few things—that they will most likely not be reported or confronted, and that on a crowded rush hour train, their victim will probably not be able to tell whose hand is whose anyway. Such advantages must be taken away from these criminals. If molesters can count on the shame factor, women should be able to count on it too. Serious punishment and public shaming is what these dirty men deserve: Hard time in jail, steep fines, pictures posted in public places and names broadcast over the train system. Shame on them!

Ricardo Gimenes

Women should also be encouraged to report the crimes. Proper reporting of molesters would help authorities understand where and when groping occurs, and this could lead to effective preventative actions. A simple ad campaign or an announcement on the train once in a while to tell women where to report molesters to would be a good start. If groping is as common as this survey suggests, it’s a bigger problem than the now seldom cellphone ring. An anti-groping announcement should replace the ever-present “dengen wo kittekudasai.” Women should also be able to make reports by keitai mail (if reception is available), so at the next station agents or police could make a sweep of the car. Even if there’s no way to tell who the groper was, at least he’ll get a good scare.

The police and the train companies need to do more to catch and prevent molesters. Instead of spending time and money on separate cars for the sexes, station employees should stop shoving people into crowded cars, crime prevention cameras should be installed, and a procedure for reporting molesters should be posted in every car along with a list of consequences for perpetrators. Some trains do have posters that say “Molesting is a crime,” but hey! Tell me something I don’t know! Sketches of known molesters should be posted in highly visible spaces with information on where and when the crime took place.

Lastly, groping should not just be a woman’s problem. Men and women both should be encouraged to help stop and prevent it. Turning a blind eye to this crime only condones the disgusting act. It should be considered a greater shame to let this type of behavior continue than to draw attention to oneself, embarrassing as that may be, and to stop it.
Maybe some of these ideas have already been tried or are simply too idealistic and not suited for Japanese society. The separate women-only car might be the right answer when you take into consideration the overwhelming lack of space in the Kanto area-but respect is the bigger issue. Women should demand it.

Forget sex segregation. It only allows gropers to continue their perverted acts in other venues, and it does nothing to punish or discourage them. Every effort should be made to prevent and persecute this prevalent dirty crime in a way that will foster respect for women. Japan still has a long way to go in terms of equality of the sexes, but women should not be taking a seat on this one. Everyone deserves respect. Get with it, ladies. M

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.