It is a harrowing thing to admit that most women have been sexually harassed or assaulted at least once in their life. Be it on a train, sidewalk or even in their own homes, women are no stranger to having someone invade their personal space and dampen their self-worth.
Even in a country as progressive as Japan and in a city as technologically advanced as Tokyo, violence and injustice towards women remain prevalent. Not only that, despite the atomic #MeToo movement that shook the world, Japan has not followed suit and in turn, it has stayed true to its archaic views on the issue.
Taught not to say ‘no’ and to just ‘keep quiet’, women in Japan have been conditioned by cultural norms and taboos to never speak up for themselves in regards to sexual assault. This is because the act of reporting a case of this nature is considered embarrassing to not only the girl’s party but also the predator’s. Japan is known for their adamance on pride and integrity so it’s no surprise how far they will go to protect that.
If a woman were to report a case however, the investigation process is gruelling, demeaning and most times, fruitless. According to Al-Jazeera,
“A particularly horrifying detail is that Japanese police, as part of their investigation, sometimes force victims to reenact the assault with a life-size doll, while being observed and questioned by officers. This “investigation technique” is abusive, unnecessary, and re-traumatising for victims.”
This pipeline of events catalysed a pivotal shift within the community mostly due to the surge of sexual harassment cases as delineated below.
With that said, the app ‘Digi Police’ came into fruition. Designed by the police department in Tokyo, Digi Police has since been downloaded a total of more than 200,000 times which is a record-shattering amount for a public service app.
The features of the app are simple but the impact is resounding. It is used whenever the user is on a train and they are being harassed or assaulted. Aware of the culture of ‘staying silent’, Digi Police does the speaking up for you by blasting alerts whenever you notify the app that you are being disturbed. The alerts sound something like, “Stop it! There is a molester!” at an ear-piercing volume for full-effect. This will then prevent the perpetrator from continuing the harassment in fear he will be caught.
Police official Keiko Toyamine explains that the app is so successful and popular, the download rate increases by 10,000 per month.
It’s clear that sexual harassment is a critical issue and Japan is taking the right steps toward a safer environment for women, children and men. If Japan’s diligence in regards to hindering the perpetuation of sexual harassment persists, stories such as Shioro Ito’s will become a historical catalyst towards a better future instead of just a forgotten and distant memory.
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