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Can male commuters be charged with non-contact 'groping?'

21 Comments

April, wrote Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the "Canterbury Tales," was a time for people to go on pilgrimages.

In Japan, observes Yukan Fuji (Apr 6), it's a month for beginning a new job, changing employers or getting transferred to a different section. It's a time to enter the next academic year of school. And, it's also a time when the risks for being nabbed for groping aboard a packed commuter train may be the highest in the year.

According to one authority on this problem, "It's even possible for a man to be arrested and charged just for sniffing a woman."

On a late-night variety program on TV Tokyo broadcast on March 23, a former female division head of the Saitama Prefectural Railway Police made an appearance. (She was probably invited because the JR Saikyo line, which connects Saitama with Tokyo, has the highest occurrences of groping in the Kanto area.) In the course of the program, she remarked that "In recent years, non-touching chikan (gropers) have clearly become a problem."

Reactions to the former cop's comments on computer bulletin boards were swift and unsympathetic. "If you say that, you might as well accuse every man alive of being a chikan from the moment he's born" proclaimed one poster. Another wrote cynically "Watch out -- whatever you do, don't let them catch you breathing!"

From a legal standpoint, is non-contact groping even possible? Apparently it is, in certain cases.

"Walking or standing persistently behind a woman, or acts such as sniffing in a noisy manner resembling a dog may violate local statutes or ordinances," explains attorney Hisashi Sonoda, a professor of law at Konan University in Yamanashi. "People who do this can be arrested and charged with indecent speech or acts."

Sonoda notes that Japan's Supreme Court has already handed down judgments on what would constitute such non-contact groping.

"There have been numerous cases where courts determined that if such activity is habitual, a person can be sentenced to up to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 500,000 yen," he said.

Such behavior may be more annoying to nearby bystanders than to the alleged victim herself.

"A man followed a woman around on the train for some five minutes, and took photographs of her posterior above the waistline," Sonoda related. "This was judged to constitute obscene speech or acts. It was not his taking of photographs per se that was regarded as a problem, but rather that the woman was targeted. The persistence of the plaintiff was the main factor in the court's decision."

So how does law enforcement draw the line in such situations?

"I don't suppose if a man were just to think, 'The fragrance wafting from a nearby woman smelled nice, so I sniffed her,' it would constitute grounds for an arrest," Sonoda was quoted as saying, adding, "The danger of a false accusation leading to a miscarriage of justice is roughly the same as for cases of actual groping."

Yukan Fuji concludes by asking rhetorically, how does one prove kusai de wa nai -- meaning there's no "smell," i.e., there's nothing fishy or suspicious going on? If you're worried that your public sniffing of another passenger might get you in trouble, perhaps nasal plugs offer the sole solution.

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Walking or standing persistently behind a woman, or acts such as sniffing in a noisy manner resembling a dog may violate local statutes or ordinances," explains attorney Hisashi Sonoda, a professor of law at Konan University in Yamanashi. "People who do this can be arrested and charged with indecent speech or acts."

indecent speech or acts?? So sniffing in a noisy manner- that is not ok, but heaven forbid they ban hate speech or the right wingers who constantly intimidate the general public...

1 ( +7 / -6 )

We're talking about a vast range of male/female behaviour here. "Sniffing??" You must be joking. Why do women (in other countries) wear perfume. Why indeed does anyone wear deodorant?

Prurient, perverted, GROSS male behaviour has always existed. Men in Japan are TOTAL demagogues/dictators (see the latest "doctor in the sumo ring" utter hypocrisy).

Because the bosses of education (= traditional, nationalistic/fascist, Imperialist) brown-nosing, just like the ministers, are all (or very nearly all) shrivelled old men with 19th century dogma and doctrine, women get a RUBBISH deal. Every time: glass ceilings, pay structure; even walking on a pavement, women step aside for men.

When will Japan realise that this is HATEFUL, DEMEANING behaviour? Do men feel they are more masculine because they touch up women (or even little girls), demonise them, use them, and sniff them?

Is there no romance??? Simply verbal, physical or sensory abuse?? For shame!! Women are NOT toys!!

(I am not saying it doesn't occur elsewhere. It does - and I'm not excusing it in any way.)

WOMEN OF JAPAN, ASSERT YOURSELVES - OR SHOW/TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS AND GRANDDAUGHTERS TO ASSERT THEMSELVES against these RATHER NASTY BIG SCHOOLBOYS who DELIGHT IN PERVERSION.

Teach BOYS to have TOTAL respect for GIRLS. Girls are not "property" or "sex objects". Those practices belong in the 18th-19th century.

Reform your civics in your education, and AT HOME. Husbands, show your wives equality and respect, so that your children will not be chikans or, humiliated, mentally disturbed young women.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Better stay off the trains if you have a runny nose.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

More like harassment than indecent/ obscene acts.

Sometimes I wonder what the people who define these things is thinking.

A female co-worker once only semi-jokingly claimed a male co-worker harassed her because she overheard him telling students not to use the word babaa.

Some are either not clear on these concepts, or apparently live in their own world.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The guy could be considered creepy if he's standing close and breathing down her neck.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

This may be harassment but it is not groping. Things just keep getting more weird every day. What's next? I am dying to not find out.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

sourpussToday  12:57 pm JST

More like harassment than indecent/ obscene acts.

Sometimes I wonder what the people who define these things is thinking.

Exactly.

It was not his taking of photographs per se that was regarded as a problem, but rather that the woman was targeted. 

There is an analogous crime to this in most countries, sexual harassment, but as harassment is understood differently here, this crime falls into a different bucket. We might have academic discussions about how the punishments attached to each bucket fit the crimes that fall into them or the etymological reasons why some crimes are seen as one category in Japan but a different category in other countries, but nothing really that unusual is happening here. You can bet that in most countries if you targeted a woman on a train and started following her around noisily smelling her or taking nuisance photos of her, the fact that you didn't actually touch her would not spare you from a meeting with the police or getting the tar beat out of you.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Very interesting article. Reminds of the time I was on a jury in a child molestation case. Everyone can pretty much agree that child molestation does occur, and that it is an utterly abominable act, and is worthy of criminal prosecution, but the twelve members of the jury of which I was a part agreed rapidly that the case in question was ridiculous and groundless. I think there could be similar instances involving sniffing, in that while it is possible, even likely, for crimes to occur, one can also see how baseless and overly enthusiastic prosecutions could occur.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The male and female dynamics getting more warped by the day. Then to add to the effect jam everyone together in confined spaces for even greater possibilities and varieties of grievances and complaints. Not saying there aren’t problems, just may wanna approach gender issues with caution. Often what may seem as a simple solution to a complex problem actually makes things worse. Hopefully an US vs THEM syndrome won’t develop.

Girls , stand up for yourselves when there’s a blatant creep around but don’t allow yourself to look at all men like they are the enemy. We are all still trying to figure out this co existence in the workplace stuff. Guys, don’t be slime balls, have some class and dignity and remember that’s someone’s daughter. It’s a jungle out there! Good luck to all!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I know it's an unpopular idea in today's police-heavy world, but not every annoying behavior or nuisance should be addressed by making it a crime.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Ricky KaminskiToday  01:10 pm JST

Hopefully an US vs THEM syndrome won’t develop.

The only people creating an "US vs THEM" syndrome are the people who respond to every story about men being affected by sexual assault/harassment laws protecting women with the accusation that women are out to get them.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Is that the non-contact martial art thing? I thought it stopped being funny after a year or so.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In the cases described of men being creepy without touching, perhaps the most appropriate punishment would be the woman audibly telling the man to p off. This may need more understanding and acceptance from other people to become realistic however.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Both sides have valid points. Women are often treated as dirt in this hyper-male driven society. Yet, men are often unfairly accused of harassment that didn't happen and that destroys lives and careers. Answer: half the train cars should be segregated by sex as toilets are. Doesn't matter for me anymore as I just purchased a new car and will leave the insanity that is JR Hokkaido.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Will eye raping become a crime as well? You know what I mean...when a guy checks out a girl and visa versa tries to picture them in a nice bathing suit, lifting weights, bending over etc.

They might start installing lie detectors on platforms in case you are accused of thinking...dirty thoughts.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Will eye raping become a crime as well? You know what I mean...when a guy checks out a girl and visa versa tries to picture them in a nice bathing suit, lifting weights, bending over etc.

Trivialising rape and mocking those who experience sexual assault is disgusting.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

"Walking or standing persistently behind a woman, or acts such as sniffing in a noisy manner resembling a dog may violate local statutes or ordinances,"

Just don’t lift a leg.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

..just castrate all men the second they are born, and be done with it...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

lol anything is possible it seems. Should just have complete female/male segregation and be done with it. The way its heading, that will come into effect anyway, particularly in the workplace. Can't afford to take any risks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

At this point segregation seems to be the fastest and most efficient way to prevent this. I, for instance, would lack the chance to visually adore females while commuting with them, but they would stop fearing being grabbed or something. Which is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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