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Passengers emerge from a women-only train car in Tokyo. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
Passengers emerge from a women-only train car in Tokyo. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

Digi Police

Japanese women are using an app to yell at molesters on public transit

By WITW Staff on May 23, 2019

Public transit in Japan is notoriously crowded, and groping on trains is a rampant problem. The cities of Tokyo and Osaka have tried to curb sexual assaults on transit by introducing women-only train cars, but as the Guardian reports, some women are now turning to another method of warding off unwanted attention: an app that yells at molesters.

The app is called Digi Police, and it lets users activate a voice that loudly shouts “Stop it!” Those less willing to make noise can pull up a screen that reads, “There is a molester. Please help,” and show it to fellow passengers. Tokyo police developed the app three years ago, according to the Associated Press, adding the function to bust molesters a few months ago. Since then, Digi Police has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.

“Thanks to its popularity, the number [of downloads] is increasing by about 10,000 every month,” police official Keiko Toyamine told the Guardian.

In 2017 alone, Tokyo police recorded 900 cases of groping and other forms of harassment on the capital’s public transit. But the actual number of assaults is likely to be much higher. Fewer than 10 percent of groping victims report their attacks, according to the Japan Times.

Cultural attitudes toward chikan, meaning sexual molestation or groping, are complex in Japan. Until relatively recently, the word wasn’t even used. The words sh?b?ryoku (nuisance) or meiwaku (annoyance) were the preferred terms.

The country’s groping problem began making headlines in 1988, according to the Japan Times, when a woman on a train in Osaka saw a man molesting a girl and told him to stop. The enraged perpetrator and another man subsequently dragged the girl off the train and raped her — leading to the notion that when it comes to sexual assault or harassment, it is better for people to say nothing.

Indeed, speaking out about sexual assault often elicits criticism in Japan, according to the Associated Press. With Digi Police, groping victims don’t have to make the move to publicly call out molesters — the app does at least some of the hard work for them. And it is much needed. “I want to download the app,” Reina Oishi told the Guardian, as I have been groped so many times.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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