Japan to Schools: Don’t Dock Attendance for Groping Victims

Japan to Schools: Don’t Dock Attendance for Groping Victims

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Chikan (groping assaults) on subway
Picture: :maroke / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Japan's government took steps this week to make it easier for school-age women to report groping assaults.

Groping assaults (痴漢; chikan) remains a persistent problem and danger for women in Japan. For a variety of reasons, many victims never even report it. Japan’s government took steps this week to make reporting a bit easier with a notice to the country’s schools.

A persistent problem

Straps inside of train (chikan - public groping assault - article)
Picture: kker / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

People outside of Japan often laud the country for its low crime rates. And while it is safe in some respects, the official statistics don’t reflect reality when it comes to groping assaults.

In a 2019 survey, the organization #WeToo Japan surveyed 12,500 men and women between the ages of 15 and 49. They asked the subjects a variety of questions about their experiences with harassment on trains and walking out in public.

The results were deflating. 70% of women and 32% of men surveyed said they’d experienced some form of harassment.

The replies from women on groping were even more depressing. 47.9% of women report being touched on some part of their body. 18.6% specifically reported having their sexual organs groped. Women under age 20 were the most likely to be assaulted at 22.9%.

It’s also worth noting that the survey asked women if they were wearing short clothing at the time they were assaulted. Blaming women for “dressing sexually” is, of course, a common tactic that molesters use to justify their actions. Almost half reported they were wearing ordinary or long, concealing clothes. In other words, how women dress bears no relation to whether or not men assault them.

Of those assaulted, 4.6% say police arrested their perpetrator. Almost 6% say they reported the incident to station staff, while another 4.1% filed a police report. A whopping 50.5% say they just endured it, while another 33.6% said they fled the scene.


In other words, over 80% of public groping attacks in Japan go unreported.

A negative impact on school records

There are many reasons women don’t report groping assaults. Accused men will say they’ve been “falsely accused”, turning accusations into a he-said, she-said. And many women say that, when they do try and file a report, police officers don’t take them seriously or discourage them from even officially filing.

Another reason is that school-age victims are concerned about the impact reporting will have on their school records. Many women in their 10s to 20s have said on social media that taking the time to report a groping assault would make them late for class. And schools in Japan – which tend to follow their own regulations to a fault – will penalize the victims for this by marking them late, counting them as absent, and refusing to give them additional time to finish critical exams.

Some molesters know this – and are happy to take advantage of it. Every year, social media is flooded with posts from sick men around college extrance exam time declaring examination day a “Molester’s Festival” (痴漢祭り).

Until now, it’s been up to private citizens and women to find ways to defend themselves. The federal and municipal governments – and even some private businesses – have launched ad campaigns to raise awareness that groping is a crime and to encourage reporting. However, critics say these campaigns sometimes put the onus of prevention on the victim.

MEXT’s Guidance to Schools

Picture: haku / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, or MEXT (文部科学省; monbukagakuchou) wants to address at least one of the causes of underreporting.

In a new memo this week to all schools in Japan, it encouraged staff to revise their policies around absence, tardiness, and exam taking for students who file sexual assault reports. The new guidance says schools should not count students as absent or tardy if they took time to file a report. Additionally, it encouraged schools to grant students taking exams additional time, or permit them to schedule make-up days, if they fall victim to a groping assault on an exam day.

The policy is part of a larger initiative by MEXT, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s Cabinet, the Ministry of Transportation, Tokyo Metro Policy and the Ministry of Justice called the Strategy Package to Eradicate Groping. The package also establishes a national phone number (#8103) for reporting crimes, a one-stop consultation line (#8891), and a social media reponse center called CureTime.

Groping assaults are a serious problem. A single policy change won’t eradicate them overnight. But this policy is at least a positive step forward.


痴漢に遭った女性の84%が通報を諦めるのは、一体だれのせいなのか. President Online

痴漢被害の通報で学校を休んでも「欠席日数」にカウントしないで。文科省が全国の教委に要請. Huffington Post JP

女性の7割が電車や道路でハラスメントを経験。「実態調査」でわかったこと. Buzzfeed Japan

痴漢撲滅に向けた政策パッケージ. Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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