Groping, or chikan is a serious problem in Japan, and one which sadly refuses to go away. Just as in many other countries, crowded (and sometimes even uncrowded) trains are the most common environments where this despicable crime occurs. According to Japanese police statistics, in Japan, there were 1,780 reported cases in 2019, 45% of which occurred in trains. Victims often feel it is difficult to report groping and don't know who they can turn to for help. For every case reported, there are surely others which go unreported.
While some would argue that there's much more they could potentially do, police and public transportation companies can't be accused of not trying to send messages designed to stop the crime. You're likely to find an anti-groping poster in almost any station in Japan with messages such as "Chikan is a crime!" or "Watch out for gropers!" The problem is whether posters such as these which primarily address potential victims of chikan are effective.
For plus-size model and social activist Marie Egbuchulam (@beauty_dor), the answer to that question is a resounding NO. To make her point, last month, she created her own proposals for anti-groping and anti sneak photography posters, ones with a decidedly different approach. Her anti-groping poster was particularly impactful and inspired many approving comments. With a no-nonsense, tough attitude, and the interjection "Haa!?" in bold red lettering, (carrying the nuance "Are you serious!?"), Egbuchulam stares directly at the viewer.
She tweets: "I'm sick and tired of seeing nothing but posters urging (potential victims) to protect themselves, so I created my own anti-groping posters. Groping and sneak photography increases in June."
Vertical text in blue: Don't pretend you didn't see it. This is everyone's problem.
Large black text: Because chikan is sexual violence!
White text: Chikan isn't a (private) problem between a man and a woman, it's a problem pitting gropers vs. society. As members of society, let's do our part to eradicate sex crimes.
Large red and black text: I saw you taking sneak photography just now. You know what's going to happen next, right?
Small text: Sneak photography is a form of sexual violence and a despicable crime. If you see it happening, please send a message here. Please tell us about the scene of the crime. You can remain anonymous. As a member of society, please participate in the eradication of sex crimes.
Egbuchulam makes the point that chikan will not disappear as long as it is portrayed as an issue which exclusively needs to be dealt with by potential victims, the direct result of their vulnerability (need for self-protection). Instead, she implies in the messaging of her posters that it's necessary to shift the focus and address society as a whole, beginning with those who witness the crime.
Directly staring at the viewer, Egbuchulam implies that all of us, society, need to take responsibility and her gaze, along with her incredulous interjection in bold red letters, can be seen as an implicit criticism of Japanese society's apathy until now, a situation she hopes will change with a renewed awareness.
Her Tweet has already received 32,000 likes and 1,100 retweets at the time of writing, eliciting approving comments such as:
Wonderful! These posters have everything that the current batch of awareness posters lack. I hope they get officially used.
I think that posters which give people an awareness of the crime are preferable to those which encourage (potential) victims to protect themselves.
Strong posters like these are better than posters which just say "please." These posters look like they would make it easier for people to speak up!
You can learn more about Marie Egbuchulam and her activities at her official website.
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