Japan Asks Schools Not to Penalize Students if They Were Late Because They Were Groped

Japanese authorities said students are reluctant to report groping crimes to the police because they fear getting penalized for missing school.
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In Japan, posters in train stations warn passengers against gropers. Photo: Lars Nicolaysen/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Japanese government has asked schools not to penalize students if they were late or missed classes because they were filing a police report after getting groped on their commute.

Students in Japan are often deterred from going to police after being molested on public transport in fear of getting punished for missing school, the country’s education ministry said in a notice this month.

The ministry’s request is one of several policy changes the government has put forward as part of a campaign, launched in March, to eliminate chikan, or groping in public. The notice was sent to educational boards nationwide as Japanese schools begin a new term this month and more students return to classrooms after disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.


18-year-old Masami, a student in greater Tokyo who was groped last year on her way to her high school, welcomes the proposal.

Masami, who asked to withhold her surname because she hadn’t told her parents about the attack, said she was frightened after being groped on the train and went home after reporting the incident to the station master. She told her teacher about the attack the next day, but the school nevertheless put a black mark on her attendance record.

“She told me that it’d still be counted as an absence because I’d missed a whole day of classes,” Masami told VICE World News, lamenting that it’d dent her academic record, which is a key component of a student’s application when applying to college. “It just seemed really unfair and didn’t make sense. It’s not like I could’ve avoided getting groped.”

In the package of policy changes, groping is identified as a serious crime that can cause enormous psychological and physical pain for victims. “It’s an act that tramples on the dignity of the individual and is unforgivable,” it reads.

Groping on public transport is a perennial problem in Japan, where offenders face up to six months in prison or fines of up to 500,000 yen ($3,774). Women-only carriages were introduced in Tokyo in 2005 in response to a spate of groping incidents. At that time, as many as 64 percent of women in their 20s and 30s in the Japanese capital reported having been groped on trains.

Eliminating public groping is one of several goals the government looks to achieve in order to attain gender equality.

In addition to asking schools to not penalize students if they’re tardy or miss classes when reporting groping crimes, the ministry has also requested that make-up classes be held as necessary. This can allow students to catch up on any missed assignments or lessons, it stated.

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