DANIELA GUEVARA WRITES—Despite the country’s low crime rate, there has been a significant increase of 27% in sexual assault in Japan, specifically on public transportation. Women in crowded trains (and other public places) often face sexual harassment in the form of groping during their commutes. In fact, Japanese research shows that more than 75% of all Japanese women have been groped. And yet, less than 10% actually report these crimes. Why? Because they fear not being believed. According to the Tokyo Police Department, 1750 cases of groping or molestation were reported in 2017, with more than 50% on trains and 20% in train stations.
Accordingly, in the past few weeks a stationery company based in Japan launched an “anti-groping” device that sold out within its first hour. Shachihata, the company which created the device, tried it out in May after footage of two teenage girls chasing down an alleged groper in a train station in Tokyo went viral on several social media platforms.
This new device, which retails at 2,500 yen ($24), consists of a stamp attached to a retractable cord that, yes, actually stamps attackers with an invisible ink; the ink can be detected by a black light also built into the gadget. In this way, victims can mark attackers to show police who can then identify them by using UV light. In a series of tweets, the Shachihata company described the stamp as a “small step” in the right direction and pledged to fight sexual harassment. Other measures have been taken to fight this growing problem. A smartphone app was developed by Japanese police earlier this year, which allows women to scare off attackers by audio buttons that produce shouts such as “Please stop!” and “Don’t touch me.” It can also transmit written messages that appear on phone screens, such as: “There is a groper here. Help!” so that other passengers will be alerted. Since its invention, the app has been downloaded about 250,000 times. It also equips users with a map of crime-prone areas as well as near-by police stations.
Yes, the violent crime rate in Japan has dropped significantly, but with sexual harassment and assault on the rise, the country—especially, women—will remain on high alert.