Sexual harassment on public transportation has long been a huge issue in Japan. But now, a free app is helping women stand up to their molesters.
The app, Digi Police, was originally created by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police to help protect the elderly from scams back in 2017. But within a few months of its inception, a “repel molesters” function was added and downloads have since skyrocketed.
When activated, a loud voice yells “Stop it!” Victims can also choose to show a full-screen message that reads, “There is a molester. Please help.” This way, victims can alert passengers discreetly while remaining silent.
The app is so popular that it’s been downloaded 240,000 times since it launched three years ago. According to a Tokyo police official, the app is downloaded at least 10,000 times every month.
A video from the online news outlet Vocativ shows a woman being masturbated while she’s sleeping on the subway. Other disturbing images show women being dry-humped and licked and a man pleasuring himself while he sits next to a woman wearing a skirt.
These perverts are known in Japan as “Chikan” and, if they are reported, they only face six months in jail or are fined 500,000 yen ($5,500).
There are so many different ways that women are getting assaulted that an illustrator took to Twitter to document them. But even the nine drawings weren’t enough to capture all the ways people were getting harassed. In the thread, women described all the ways they had been harassed such as having their bras unhooked, having a used condom put in their bags, and having had men put their crotches in their face while they’re sitting down.
The situation is so bad that there are women-only train cars but, unfortunately, there are no laws officially prohibiting men from entering.
In WeToo’s survey, they found that 70% of women have experienced sexual harassment in public places. 48% have been touched, 42% have had someone press their body up against them, and 20% have been flashed.
Japan is slowly but surely taking measures to take a stand against sex crimes.
Currently, the country is looking to completely reform its sexual assault laws to enact harsher penalties on offenders. However, under the current law, not fighting back is seen as consent and rape and molestation cannot be proven.
Organizations like WeToo Japan are working to raise awareness about sexual harassment and consent throughout Japan. In their manifesto, they say they remain hopeful for “a society that does not allow violence such as sexual harassment, power harassment, or sexual violence.”