Mind the (Commuting) Gap and the CityAnd The City | Prima Abdullah
In 1994, Tokyo was already a city with one of the lowest crime rates. With only 60 crimes per 100,000 people, it had earned a reputation as one of the safest cities. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences the same sense of safety: at least 70% of women commuters have experienced harassment. A women’s group in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, says three-quarters of women in their 20s and 30s who responded to a questionnaire reported encountering a groper— or chikan in Japanese, at least once.
There are reasons why this is quite prevalent in Japan. First, there is a relaxed attitude toward gropers. Both society and institutions consider the harassment as a low-level misdemeanor. Some incident reports mention that surrounding passengers were aware of the harassment happening, however they chose not to get involved. In other situations, reporting the incident to the police will not bear any fruit. Police reporting, in addition to sometimes being complicated – taking hours and with no female officers present while reporting – is also not always considered serious. In one case, the victim was told to reconsider pressing charges because the perpetrator was still a minor, with perhaps a bright future ahead. This unfriendly system can only deter reports; hence, only some 10% of victims file a report.
Furthermore, institutionalized misogynism allowed a self-confessed groper to publish a book. The book titled Gropers Diary sold out its first print of 40,000 copies and was on its way to a second print before a women’s group put pressure on the publisher to cancel. The glorified sex offender, however, was free to roam the streets of Tokyo.
Another reason for continued prevalence is that groping is still considered minor harassment. This was as inaccurate in the past as it is now. Groping does not only include over the clothes touching, but also finger thrusting in the nether region. And the victims are not only women from 20 to 30 years old, but as young as 13. What has been considered as only harassment should be considered sexual assault.
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