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How Japanese commuters are using their smartphones to stop groping on trains

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
Published
Japanese women are using an app to help stop groping on trains.

An app which was originally designed to help alert elderly people in Japan about scams is now being used in an innovative way.

Female commuters in Japan have had access to women-only carriages on trains for almost 20 years, but the problem of molesters on rush-hour trains persists.

After all, women-only carriages might seem like a good idea, but they’re not a solution to the problem — all they do is hide away potential victims, while not tackling the behaviour of perpertrators.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn proposed women-only carriages on trains when he was running for leadership of the party, but the idea proved unpopular.

Nicky Morgan, then Conservative women’s minister, said: “It seems to me not to tackle the issue, which is that women should feel safe and be free from harassment…it seems to say ‘let’s segregate people’ rather than tackling the issue.”

A debate also raged in Germany after the country introduced women-only carriages in 2016.

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Given that women-only carriages haven’t solved the problem of groping on public transport in Japan, people are now turning to technology to help.

Victims of groping, described by the Guardian as a “perennial problem on Japanese public transport”, are using Digi Police, an app which enables people to activate a voice that shouts “stop it” at a high volume, has been downloaded 237,000 times.

Police said that was an “unusually high figure” and that the number of downloads was increasing by about 10,000 every month.

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The app also allows people to bring up a message to show to other passengers, which reads: “There is a molester. Please help.”

Digi Police was originally created to notify older people about financial scams and give safety information to parents and children.

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According to the Guardian, the Tokyo metropolitan police department recorded almost 900 cases of groping and other forms of harassment on trains in 2017. The real figure is much higher, because many victims are reluctant to come forward.

Police official Keiko Toyamine described the figure as the “tip of the iceberg”. That’s a scary thought, and while the app is a good start, it will take more than technology (and silo-ing women into women-only carriages) to solve the problem of groping on Japan’s trains.

Image: Getty

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