Man (and woman) is born free and everywhere is in trains.
To continue the French Enlightenment motif: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Two of these look to be served with the news in Japan that signatures are being collected for a petition campaigning for the introduction of men-only train carriages alongside their female-only counterparts.
According to a survey earlier this year, a majority of both women and men supported the introduction of men-only carriages. While men riding women-only carriages aren’t technically breaking any law, in most cases they’ll be asked firmly and repeatedly to change carriages by many female passengers.
▼ Women-only carriages can be found on both Japan Rail trains and a number of private and local railways.
Surprisingly, the problem of chikan, (the Japanese word for perverts who grope others on the street or on public transport) which is one of the main reasons for the perceived continued need for women-only carriages, is also one of the main arguments being put forward for men-only areas. Many male passengers have expressed concern about the potential to be branded a chikan even for inadvertent physical contact on busy trains. This fear of false accusation seems to be the main driving force behind support for men-only carriages. Another supporting claim was that men should also have a place to retreat to if need be, and while incidents of women groping men are comparatively very rare, they’re not beyond the realm of imagination.
▼ It’s not unknown for mixed-gender carriages to be jam-packed while the women-only carriages have room to spare.
ツイッター速報 (@tsuisoku) October 13, 2015
The online petition can be found on the petition website change.org and is aiming for a fairly modest 2,500 signatures. Despite both men and women supporting the idea, this hasn’t yet translated into people putting their name to the change, as after a year of being in existence the petition’s number of signatures stands at only 1,741. That said, the number has increased significantly since the petition was featured recently on a number of Japanese social media sites.
People online voiced their opinion on the news, with most being supportive of the petition’s aims, although many questioned the necessity:
“I support this too. If there are women-only carriages, I think there should be men-only carriages too.”
“Who will ride a carriage full of old guys?”
“That sounds like it would stink… but if there were a men-only carriage I’d probably ride it, I suppose.”
“There are loads of guys who feel embarrassed [for riding near women in case they’re looked at as potential perverts] so we have to make this a reality.”
“Just split men and women up like they do with public toilets already.”
While men-only carriages are a step towards equality in a society where women-only carriages are still necessary, it’s to be hoped that this campaign doesn’t detract from measures aiming to remove the causes of this train regulation, namely groping, and then we might have Equality, Fraternity/Sorority and Liberty. On trains, at least.