MIND THE (COMMUTING) GAP AND THE CITY

PRIMA ABDULLAH


Tokyo in 1994 was already a city with one of the lowest crime rates. With only 60 crimes per 100.000 population, it has earned a reputation of one of the safest cities. Unfortunately, not everyone is not experiencing the same sense of safety, at least 70% of women commuting has experience harassment. A women’s group in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, says three-quarters of women in their 20s and 30s who responded to a questionnaire reported encountering a groper— or chikan in Japanese, at least once. [1]


There are reasons why it's quite prevalent in japan. First, a relaxed attitude toward gropers. Both society and institutions consider the harassment as a low-level misdemeanour. Some incident mention surrounding passenger was aware of harassment happening, however they choose not to be involved. In other situation, reporting it to the police would not bear any fruit. Police reporting while sometimes complicated-- took hours and has no female police officers present while reporting, was also not being considered serious. In one case, the victim was told to reconsider pressing charges because the perpetrator was still a minor with, perhaps a bright future ahead.[2] This unfriendly system, can only deter reports, hence there are only 10% of victim that reports.[3]


Furthermore, institutionalizes misogynism allowed for self-confessed groper to published a book. The book titled Gropers Diary sold out its 40.000 first print and it was on its way to published second print, before women group put pressure on publisher to cancel. The glorified sex offender however was free to roam the streets of Tokyo. [4]


Other reasons were because groping is still considered minor harassment. This is inaccurate then as it is now. Groping does not only include over the clothe touching, but also finger trusting in the nether region.[5] And the victim does not only comprise of women 20 to 30 years old, but also 13 years old.[6] What was considered as only as harassment should be considered sexual assault.


However, 1994 Japan was putting effort to curb groping. The issue, which has only been shrugged off as another distasteful nuisance, was then started to recognize both the extent and the human cost of this so called low-level sexual crime. The city implemented policies to help battle these gropers: mobilizing more than 70 officers in the most groping incident take place; assigning a permanent counselling corners--staffed by female officers in two of the biggest station, Tokyo Central and Shinjuku.[7]


Today, crime rate in japan is even lower than 20 years ago.[8] Gun related crime has only 3 death compared in US 15,612 death.[9] Unfortunately even with all the effort Tokyo invested in, Tokyo women still experience a similar situation, if not worse.


More technology is being used to battle harassment from using CCTV, Apps that makes loud noise that scare off harasser, having all camera phones making an audible shutter sound, to an apps that inform a chikan—aptly named chikanradar.[10]


Unfortunately, a survey conducted by WeToo Japan in 2019 still found that 70% of women and 30% of men said they have experienced public harassment. At least 48% of women and 9% of men reported being touched, whereas 42% of women and 12% of men said strangers had pressed their bodies against them suggestively. And around 20% of female respondents reported strangers exposing themselves.[11]


Non-sexual physical violence was also a following concern. Not less than 19% of women said that they had been hit by someone, with a slightly lower 16% of men also having experienced assault.


Groping is so prevalent in Japan, the word chikan has since became a global verbatim. But to say that this a problem that only happened in Japan cannot be further from the truth. In 2007, an online questionnaire found that 63% of New York public transit users had been sexually harassed on the subway or at a subway station. In 2014, around 20% of Los Angeles public transit users said they felt unsafe in the past month due to unwanted sexual attention on the Metro. And in 2016, 21% of Washington, D.C., public transit users were victims of sexual harassment. [12]


In Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, as high as 99.3% of women surveyed reported having experienced sexual harassment, most commonly in the form of touching or groping.[13] Korea Transport Institute published about 26% of the women said they experienced sexual harassment on buses and 21% on the subway, compared to 2.3% and 2.4% of men respectively [14]. ITDP Brazil’s study Women and Children's Access to the City, conducted focus group discussions with low-income and black women in the outskirts of Recife's Metropolitan Area and found that harassment was perceived an inevitable occurrence in women’s daily life.[15]


Sexual harassment in public transportation is not solely an issue that a single culture has to deal with. Neither an exclusively developing or developed country issue. And what is probably surprising: it is not problem that only women faced, but also men.



The Gap and the Map


In 2012, Jyoti, a 23-year-old medical students, and her male companion were raped and tortured on a moving bus. She survived for 11 days and managed to name the perpetrator before succumbing to her injuries. The incident sparks public outcry in India and all over the world. According to Eve Ensler—an activist who worked on sexual violence for 15 years in India, the incident broke through the consciousness and was on the front page, articles every day, public discourse, student college discussion. India was taking action in fast tracking the laws, sexual education, and bases of patriarchy and masculinity and how it all can lead to sexual violence.[16]



Delhi North



Delhi Munirka



Delhi Dwarka


AndTheCity aimed to analyze the New Delhi harassment map based on reports compiled by Safecity. The data was then converted into a heat map that can translate where harassment and violence have happened. Included in these numbers are verbal, non-verbal, physical, and other types of violence. Samples were taken from three places in New Delhi where incidents occurred: Central Delhi, Munirka, and Dwarka. Munirka to Dwarka was the route Jyoti took to commute home. By analyzing the map, the public can pinpoint where improvements need to be made.


Dwarka is a residential area located in western New Delhi. The area is assigned as a diplomatic enclave and is being developed as a smart sub-city under the Delhi Development Authority. The map indicates that KM Chow has the highest harassment report. Munirka is an urban village located in south-west Delhi. The area is close to Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi campuses. Close to Munirka there are also a high number of harassment incidents in Hauz Khas, which is a popular area for backpackers.


However, the incidents in both places do not occur as much as in Paharganj. The area has been a backpacker hub since in the 70s, due to its popular cheap lodgings and restaurants. Unfortunately, the area also has a bad reputation in relation to women’s safety. Not only is there a high number of sexual assaults, there is also a history of sexual trafficking with minors from neighboring countries. Hotels and lodgings are known to engage in the sex trade and other illicit activities resulting in the death of tourists. The local tourism body encourages local and international backpackers to stay at Hauz Khas instead.


India is one of the few countries that easily provides accessible maps of harassment and violence. The map should not be seen only as representing the city’s level of misogynism; it should also be seen as indicating a high level of awareness if what is considered as harassment and assault, and an eagerness to address the problem. Having a map of harassment is better progress than not having one.


The incident above was one of the extreme realities in the world where public transportation failed to provide a safe space. But safety alone is not the problem; there are further subsequent difficulties faced by women. An analysis from the Office of National Statistic shows that women in the UK are more likely than men to leave their jobs because of a longer commute. Women tend to be the main providers of childcare and unpaid work, while men are more likely to tolerate longer journeys in return for higher pay.[17] The analysis, however, did not mention safety as one of the reasons, even though there are reports that indicate women in the UK experience similar problems to women in Japan, albeit in smaller numbers.


According to Sarah Kaufman of New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation, women in New York spent hundreds of dollars each year on ride-sharing apps and taxi services, both for convenience – to avoid carrying a stroller up and down subway steps – and for personal safety.[18] In other research, women modified their behavior in ways such as avoiding a particular train line or dressing differently. These modifications result in an additional median cost of $600, compared to $0 for men.[19] Women in low-income industries often juggle work in remote places with shifts in the early morning or late evening. If they don’t have a vehicle, they are reliant on public transportation, which brings a whole new set of potential encounters with harassment, catcalling or worse. Women in these situations may avoid a job altogether for fear of a potentially dangerous commute.


Access to work is not the only aspect hindered by fear for safety. In Rwanda, a study showed that 55% of women were concerned about their safety when going to educational institutions after dark. In India, girls 15 to 19 years old try to ensure their own safety by avoiding certain places, staying indoors after dark, dressing carefully, and carrying defensive weapons such as pepper spray and safety pins.[20]


Limited access to education due to commuting safety also happened in the US. Limited school transportation has been linked to decreased school choice. Schools that are considered good are more likely to be located in higher income areas; therefore children with lower incomes, minorities, single parents, or parents with less education will most likely not have access to such schools. Low-income students generally have farther to go and less capacity to get there.[21]


Not having a safe means of transportation to commute reduces the freedom of movement for women and girls. Furthermore, not only is it detrimental to the pay gap, but also in terms of access to job opportunities, education, and healthcare services.



The City


Emily May, the founder of Hollaback!, believes public transport will be the next frontier of the #MeToo movement.[22] Can the city help address the problem?

There are visible – and sometimes designed – solutions that can be employed. One of them is separate trains. Cities like Jakarta and Tokyo offer women-only trains. Jakarta had a separate train in 2012, which was removed after only seven months because it was largely empty. In 2019, the separate train was resurrected after a survey in which 58% of respondents claimed that a dedicated car was a necessity.[23] In Tokyo, 82% of women favored the introduction of separate trains, even though much less prefer to use it. Leipzig, Germany also introduced a separate train, which received a mixed reception: some welcomed it, while others considered it backward.


But a separate train doesn’t offer an effective measure to stop harassment. One of the objections was that having a separate train could add to accusations against victims on the mixed train for putting themselves at risk.[24] While it may be considered backwards and a form of discrimination by some, many see it as a means of survival.


SNCF, France’s state-owned railway company, offered another design-based solution: better lighting, clear lines of sight, eliminating nooks, corners, and isolated areas that might facilitate assault, lively waiting areas in which everyone can feel comfortable, friendly drivers and public transportation staff to promote trust. All this coupled with a greater presence of transit and local police, visible video cameras to document and deter assaults, and training for transit operators on the best ways to de-escalate confrontations.


Another successful example in Mexico is Hazme el Paro. The project included a marketing campaign that defined actions for bystanders to follow so as to become interveners in a non-confrontational manner, as well as community and sector training (bus drivers, police officers) and IT components such as installing Wi-Fi in buses and making a mobile application available for reporting different kinds of sexual harassment. The project resulted in changing public behavior as reflected in a higher willingness to act against instances of harassment, mainly by men. The perception of risk increased by 15% in the treatment group, which can be interpreted as a proxy for increase in awareness of the security situation.


Design-wise, creating a safe space and the perception of space is a way to encourage safety itself. However, separation is not the best gesture in the pursuit of an equal society. A separate train is a form of escapism, trying to patch the current problem with a temporary solution while ignoring a bigger problem: sexism.


One recommendation from the US Department of Transportation involves better communication with women. Local transit agencies are encouraged to consult with the public on planned services to help determine locally preferred options and to prepare for changes to services and routes within the community, and to consult with women’s groups and civic advocates on their behalf. It is difficult to recognize a problem if you aren’t the one who experiences the problem. Furthermore, the local transit agencies are encouraged to include innovative uses of information and communication technologies to report cases of harassment.


Perhaps what is missing from Tokyo is women’s involvement in decision making. This difficulty is addressed by the European Transport Workers’ Federation as they aim to increase women’s representation in transportation leadership. However, this effort is also faced with its own problems. According to the 2017 survey by the European Transport Workers’ Federation, 63% of respondents had faced violence: 49% from customers, 22% from colleagues and 17% from the management. Among the women who reported an incident, 80% did not believe that their complaint had negative consequences for the perpetrator or made the workplace safer. This is a serious concern for women who seek to develop careers in the transportation sector.


The US Department of Transportation sees similar problems, and, following a survey, they received input to provide greater a presence of transit and local police, video cameras to document and deter assaults, and training for transit operators on the best ways to de-escalate confrontations. When these efforts were implemented in the Los Angeles METRO bus system, it resulted in a 39% decrease in total crime and a 60% decrease in operator assaults between 2017 and 2018.[25]


Japan’s economy has only prioritized empowering women in the past decade.[26] Unfortunately, this is reflected in their efforts to involve women as lawmakers In Japan. Only 46 of 465 lower house lawmakers are women – just shy of 10% – compared to a 25% global average and a 20% average in Asia.[27] Japan ranked just below the Democratic Republic of Congo.


If women and girls are safe on public transportation, it improves their access to educational and economic opportunities. For people with a disability, accessible transportation is essential to securing employment and covering their own costs of living. And improvements in accessibility can benefit many other urban residents, notably the elderly.[28]


Last but not least, men and women have a role to play in addressing the root causes of gender inequality, discrimination and violence, namely by promoting a culture of respect and equality for everyone in all contexts: at home, in schools, at work and in public spaces. Aside from that, good credible data can reliably help inform policies and programs, as well as assessing progress. In the end, design can only do so much. Promoting the full participation and leadership of women, children, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups on issues that affect their lives is a necessity.


#commutinggap #women #city #builtenvironment #architect'srole #mobolity #publicspace #equalityinthecity #research #urbanplanning #delhi #urbanism #sexism


[1] Yamaguchi, Mari. “Japanese Women Run a Gauntlet of Molesters on Commuter Trains: Harassment. Few men are caught because many victims simply flee. One survey found that three-quarters of women in their 20s and 30s had encountered a groper. New book by a groper is selling well.” 23 October 1994. LA Times. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-10-23-mn-53796-story.html

[2] “After telling her story, Jenna says police recommended that she not press charges because her alleged assailant was apparently still a minor. Undeterred, Jenna said she still wanted to press charges.” - Thompson, Nevin. “What happens when women report sexual assault in Japan?” 16 August 2018 Mediumhttps://medium.com/adinkra/what-happens-when-women-report-sexual-assault-in-japan-19acd5d00b68

[3] Brasor, Phillip. “Japan struggles to overcome its groping problem” 17 Merch 2018. Japan Timeshttps://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/17/national/media-national/japan-struggles-overcome-groping-problem/

[4] Parry, RL. “The Tokyo commuter who groped his way to celebrity” 05 April 1997. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/the-tokyo-commuter-who-groped-his-way-to-celebrity-1265562.html

[5] Wudunn, Sheryl. “On Tokyo’s Packed Trains, Molesters Are Brazen” 17 December 1995. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/17/world/on-tokyo-s-packed-trains-molesters-are-brazen.html

[6] Dayman, Lucy. “Groped, Scared, Disgusted: Stories Of Dealing With Chikan In Japan” 28 May 2018. savvytokyo. https://savvytokyo.com/groped-scared-disgusted-women-share-stories-of-dealing-with-chikan-in-japan/

[7] Parry, RL. “The Tokyo commuter who groped his way to celebrity” 05 April 1997. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/the-tokyo-commuter-who-groped-his-way-to-celebrity-1265562.html

[8] --,“Japan Crime Rate & Statistics 1990-2021.” Macrotrends. https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/JPN/japan/crime-rate-statistics

[9] --,”Gun Crimes in Japan Remain Rare.” 19 April 2018. https://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00178/

[10] James, Lauren. “Six ways Japanese women can deter gropers on trains and sexual harassment, from stickers to stamps” 2 September 2019. South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/travel-leisure/article/3025325/six-ways-japanese-women-can-deter-gropers-trains-and

[11] Aizawa, Yuko. “Lifting the lid on Japan’s harassment problem.” 30 Jan 2019. NHK-Japan. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/361/

[12] Yahnke, Katie. “Sexual Harassment Statistics: The Numbers Behind the Problem”. 16 April 2018. I-sight. https://i-sight.com/resources/sexual-harassment-statistics-the-numbers-behind-the-problem/

[13]Alam, Muneeza Mehmood. “Women in transport: Safety and personal security” p.24-25. ITF (2018), Women’s Safety and Security: A Public Transport Priority, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[14] Han Sang-hee. “1 out of 4 women experience harassment during commute” 26 Jan 2011. The Korea Times. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/01/117_80409.html

[15]Shah, S. and Bortolon, L., 2021. Creating gendered mobility plans to enable safe and secure transport: Challenges and ways forward for India and Brazil. In: Women’s Safety and Security: A Public Transport Priority. Paris: OECD Publishing, pp.25-26.

[16] Interview with Eve Ensler in democracynow.org. “One Billion Rising: Playwright Eve Ensler Organizes Global Day of Dance Against Sexual Abuse” 14 February 2013. Democracy Now https://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/14/one_billion_rising_playwright_eve_ensler#transcript

[17] Office for National Statistic. 4 September 2019. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/articles/thecommutinggapwomenaremorelikelythanmentoleavetheirjoboveralongcommute/2019-09-04

[18] Carpenter, Julia.“The hidden costs of commuting while female” 27 September 2018 CNN Bussiness. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/27/success/women-commuting-gap/index.html

[19] Shibata, Seiji. “Are women-only cars (WOC) a solution to groping? A survey among college students in Tokyo/Kanagawa, Japan” 19 January 2020. T and F onlinehttps://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01924036.2020.1719533

[20] Natarajan, Mangai. Rapid assessment of “eve teasing” (sexual harassment) of young women during the commute to college In India. Crime Sci (2016)

[21] Cornwall, Gail. “How Lack Of Access To Transportation Segregates Schools” 1 May 2018 Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/gailcornwall/2018/05/01/why-tech-is-prepping-to-overhaul-school-transportation

[22] Wills, Kate. “Which city is the worst for sexual harassment on public transport?” 8 Oct 1029. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/oct/08/which-city-is-the-worst-for-sexual-harassment-on-public-transport [23] News Desk."MRT Jakarta to designate women-only cars during peak hours". 13 March 2013 thejakartapost.com https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/03/13/mrt-jakarta-to-designate-women-only-cars-during-peak-hours.html

[24] Shibata, Seiji. “Are women-only cars (WOC) a solution to groping? A survey among college students in Tokyo/Kanagawa, Japan” 19 January 2020. T and F onlinehttps://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01924036.2020.1719533

[25]Plan International Expert Survey: Girls’ Safety in Cities Across the World. 2018. https://plan-international.org/publications/expert-survey-girls-safety-cities

[26] McCurry, Justin. “Japan is a 'democracy without women', says ruling party MP” 23 September 2020 The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/23/japan-is-a-democracy-without-women-says-ruling-party-mp

[27] Wakatsuki, Yoko. Jozuka, Emiko. “Japan has so few women politicians that when even one is gaffe-prone, it's damaging”22 October 2020. CNN https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/21/asia/japan-women-politics-hnk-dst-intl/index.html

[28] Fernandez, Elisa, et al. “From "City of Peace" to Safe Cities for Women and Girls” 8 March 2019. UN Women. https://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/news-and-events/stories/2019/03/city-of-peace

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