Asia-Pacific

Constantly harassed on trains, Japanese women have resorted to an 'anti-groping' app

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The app has since been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times as women continue to fall victim to groping on Japan's overcrowded trains.

A smartphone app developed by Japanese police is being widely downloaded by women trying to protect themselves from gropers on packed rush-hour trains.

The "Digi Police" app was originally issued by Tokyo police three years ago, but a new function designed to scare off molesters was only added a few months ago.

Since then, the app has reportedly been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, which is rare for a government-developed app.

Japan's train stations have turned into groping hot-spots, leaving many women relying on a new app to help keep themselves safe.
Japan's train stations have turned into groping hot-spots, leaving many women relying on a new app to help keep themselves safe.
AAP

Japanese women on crowded trains and in other public places regularly face sexual harassment, but say they are often too afraid to call out for help due to a sense of embarrassment.

With the app, victims can press a "repel groper" icon to produce a written message saying "There is a groper here. Please help".

With another press, the message turns red and a voice repeatedly says, "Please stop!"

Some private railway providers have introduced women-only carriages to combat groping on trains.
Some private railway providers have introduced women-only carriages to combat groping on trains.
AAP

The app includes an alarm and can notify a designated email address when used - a feature that can also be used by children and their parents.

Users can also locate crime-prone areas and police stations on a map.

Violent crime is rare in Japan, but groping - ranging from rubbing against victims to placing a hand under their clothing - is an everyday occurrence.

It has been taken lightly as a "nuisance", leading to officials placing posters at stations and in train cars to remind passengers groping is a crime.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police said 2620 sexual crimes were reported in 2017, including 1750 cases of groping, mostly on trains or at stations.

The #MeToo movement has been slow to catch on in largely patriarchal Japan, where speaking out often draws criticism rather than sympathy.

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