An invisible ‘anti-groping’ stamp has been launched in Japan in an effort to tackle the problem of public sexual harassment on trains.
Manufactured by Japanese stamp-maker Shachihata Inc, the anti-groping device works by allowing the victim to mark their attacker with a small hand-shaped stamp that is imprinted using invisible ink.
The device is also fitted with a UV back-light, which will reveal the stamp and thus identify the alleged assailant. Within half an hour of being released, all 500 the £19 devices had sold out .
The firm began developing the product in May 2019 following a video of two Japanese school girls chasing down a suspected groper in a train station went viral.
The video sparked a heated online debate about how to deter public sexual harassment on trains, which is a very prevalent problem in Japan known as chikan.
In 2017, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department recorded 1,750 cases of groping or molestation, with more than 50% of cases of sexual harassment occurring on trains and a further 20% in train stations.
According to a recent Nikkei survey, of 1,000 working women surveyed, 43% had experienced sexual harassment and more than 60% said they did not report it.
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The firm says its device will help deter would-be attackers, but one sexual abuse charity has expressed concern that the device puts the onus on the victims to stop sexual harassment. A spokesman for the firm tweeted that the device was “a small step toward a world free of sexual crimes”.
Katie Russell, a spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England and Wales, told the BBC she was concerned about companies profiting off the “legitimate fears of rape and sexual violence” and of putting the onus on the potential victim.
“While the inventors and manufacturers of products like these are no doubt well-intentioned, there is something problematic about anyone making profit out of people’s – predominantly women’s and girls’ – reasonable fear of sexual violence and abuse,” she said.
“Perhaps more importantly, ‘prevention’ products like this one seem to place the onus and responsibility on victims and potential victims to protect themselves and others from sexual violence, when really that responsibility lies solely and completely with the perpetrators of these crimes, as does the power to end them.”
With a product of this nature there is scope for it to be misused. For example, someone might mark another person out of spite or thinking it is funny to mark the individual as a pervert.
Japan is bottom among G7 countries for its gender equality and ranks 110th out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum’s index measuring gender equality.
Last year, a number of Japanese medical universities admitted to deliberately tampering with entrance exam scores to put female applicants at a disadvantage.