New law targets voyeurism and ‘upskirt photography’ in Japan

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For the initial time in Japan, lawmakers are going to criminalise “sneak images”, or sexual shots taken without having consent in community spots, a recurrent difficulty in community transportation which largely targets youthful women. The law is a shift in the suitable route, our Observer suggests, however Japan still has lots of home for improvement, particularly when it comes to sexual education and learning.

In Japan, general public transportation can be a minefield for gals. In crowded trains, corridors or escalators, they could arrive across “chikan”, a Japanese term that describes men who inappropriately touch women in community transportation or try to take pics beneath women’s skirts without the need of consent, also known as “upskirting”. 

The invoice concentrating on this style of “photographic voyeurism” would penalise all those who choose and disseminate sexual photographs taken without having consent, which includes all those taken by chikan.

The law is section of a collection of measures from sexual violence, including broadening the definition of rape and penalising “grooming”, in which an grownup establishes a rapport with a slight in purchase to exploit them for sexual favours or photos, a phenomenon which largely occurs on line. 

>> Read far more on The Observers: Japan’s ‘chikan’: An illustrated search at how sexual harassers grope females on trains

‘The victims are typically young ladies in college uniforms’

In a country where by younger women are generally sexualised in the media, some of the victims of sexual harassment in Japan are just teenagers, in accordance to our Observer Maki Abe, who established an affiliation to elevate recognition of sexual violence against youthful folks. She has worked for additional than 20 many years to beat sexual violence versus minors. 

The way gals are sexualised in Japan is really problematic. You can see it in manga, anime, but also images all around the metropolis: the handles of journals in convenience merchants. We are uncovered all the time, even youngsters.

Many people commute to do the job or school by tain, and they are exceptionally crowded. We have to take them.

‘Chikan’ takes place quite normally in trains. The victims are normally young girls in faculty uniforms.

In 2018, about 3,000 scenarios were claimed [Editor’s note: and 5,000 in 2021], but that is absolutely considerably less than 1% for the reason that numerous men and women do not go to the law enforcement or file a report.


In the Kansai region subways, posters with an crisis number invite travellers to report their encounters of “Chikan” to the station personnel or law enforcement officers.

‘The greatest difficulty is that the victim is blamed’

The phenomenon has happened for yrs in Japan, to the extent that some trains even have a car or truck reserved for ladies during hurry hour. Right up until now, only nearby guidelines, which differ from location to location, penalise sexual harassment and image voyeurism on public transportation.

Maki Abe is cautiously optimistic about the new legislation. 

At to start with I imagined this law was a incredibly significant move forward. We are conversing about altering a penal code that is more than 100 many years aged [Editor’s note: Japan’s penal code was adopted in 1907]. But there are so a lot of challenges, like the simple fact that a lot of females never report.

In my opinion, the most important challenge is that the target is blamed. They say, ‘It’s your fault, why would you costume in such a small skirt or wander like that? It’s your fault.’

Photo taken by our Observers in a train station in Yokohama, where she lives.
Photograph taken by our Observers in a educate station in Yokohama, where by she lives. © Maki Abe/Observers

In all the teach stations in Japan, there are posters like this 1 to warn women of all ages about ‘chikan’. But the concept is normally, like on this photograph I took: ‘You have to be careful’, ‘You have to view out driving you’.

Maki Abe believes the key to resolving the challenge lies in sexual instruction.  

Sexual training in Japan is quite driving. Students you should not have adequate schooling, particularly on sexual consent. 

And Japan is incredibly guiding on protecting against sexual abuse, so in the legislation procedure and prevention education, they never have the accurate information. Even if women are ready to communicate up, if the man or woman who is listening would not have the suitable awareness, the circumstance will not be dealt with by the police or the teacher. 

It really is receiving improved tiny by tiny, but we are nevertheless driving compared to Europe or the US. 

I want to promote an training that suggests ‘It’s not your fault’. We will need preventative education and a counselling process to acknowledge extra studies and generate a help procedure.

The bill phone calls for prison sentences of up to a few decades or a fantastic of up to 3 million yen (about 20,000 euros) for sexual harassment and photograph voyeurism.