The ‘women-only’ carriage often seen on busy commuter trains in Japan can seem somewhat mysterious to those who visit Japan from other countries. The carriage, however, was created in response to rising numbers of groping incidents to protect women during the rush hour, where bodies are packed together tightly.
But recently the number of men who disagree with having carriages exclusively for women during times when commuters are so crammed together they can barely move have increased, as have the number of dissenting voices who believe that women-only carriages are actually discriminatory to men.
This has led one reporter to ask a lawyer’s opinion on whether it is actually illegal for men to ride the women-only carriage, particularly when it seems emptier than all the other carriages. Netizen responses are translated below the article.
Is it Illegal For a Man to Ride the ‘Women Only Carriage’ on Commuter Trains?
It’s possible for there to be all sorts of trouble on the train.
‘It’s a bother. I’m uncomfortable, so please get off the train’, ‘I didn’t realise that this was a women-only carriage’. The cries fly around the train. A scene from a film released on a video-sharing site. From time to time trouble arises in the commuter train ‘women-only carriage’.
As a rule, only women can ride the women-only carriage, and it is enforced during commuting hours when the trains are crowded on central trains that run through the centre of Tokyo. The purpose of this is to prevent nuisance, namely groping incidents.
Be this as it may, some men still dare to ride in women-only carriages, and they are glared at by the women around them; depending on the situation, there have also been cases where this has developed into an argument. Men like this insist that ‘Whether you ride the women-only carriage or not is up to you, and even if a man does get on, then there is no reason it should be an issue’, and ‘There is only a women-only carriage, and the fact that there is no men-only carriage is discrimination against men’
So is it actually illegal for a man to ride the women-only carriage? We asked lawyer Motohashi Kazuki.
● ‘The Women-Only Carriage is Built On Passengers’ Understanding and Cooperation’.
The Keio-Teito Electric Railway, which as the first railway in Japan to introduce women-only carriages, announces on its homepage with regard to
these carriages that: ‘We ask for everyone’s understanding and cooperation’. On other private lines and the JR lines, too, the expression is almost exactly the same.
Having cited the explanations of the railway companies themselves, Motohashi explained in the following way about their meaning.
‘The point is, that the women-only carriage is something which is based on the understanding and cooperation of other passengers (male passengers), and it is certainly not something that involves the compulsory exclusion of male passengers. By this, I mean that those running the railway companies are to the very end requesting the cooperation of male passengers, and there is also no legal basis for prohibiting male passengers riding the carriage.
That is to say, that the fact that male passengers don’t ride the women-only carriage is based on ‘voluntary cooperation’, and is not prohibited by law.
‘Accordingly, there is nothing illegal about men riding the women-only carriage’, concludes Motohashi.
When we asked JR East Japan about men riding the women only carriage, it appears that the company asks that ‘men refrain from doing so’, but that ‘they are not prohibited from doing so by law or by the terms of carriage’. Furthermore, they stated that ‘Men want us to abolish the women-only carriage, and conversely women would rather that we increased the number of lines we have’.
Therefore, the current situation is that there are pros and cons surrounding the women-only carriage. If we take it that this special carriage is based on the ‘understanding and cooperation of passengers’, then it is necessary for railway companies to patiently explain this, just as they ask for the understanding of the male passengers who are dissatisfied with it.
Comments from Yahoo! Japan:
At any rate, women want everyone to get crammed into that carriage. The women only-carriage is completely empty.
I wouldn’t stand for it if it became illegal! When I’ve ridden it by accident it was majorly awkward though…(笑)
It’s more a question of morals than law.
Those bastards saying that it’s discrimination against men are just weird. I’m in complete agreement with the women-only carriage. I don’t want to get caught up in unnecessary trouble.
I reckon that those twats (men) who go out of their way to ride the women-only carriage are probably trouble-makers in their day-to-day lives, too.
I wonder how those idiots who said they didn’t know how that ‘Kawaii ward’ thing could be sexual discrimination look at the women-only carriage?
Of course there are laws, but before that there were moral manners. Don’t behave like the Chinese!
This just encourages women who are aware of their human rights to become monsters.
I think it’s quite alright if we have women-only carriages, but I want women to use them properly. Those who use them are virtually all ‘safe people’, and why do people who ‘look like they’d get groped’ just ride the normal crowded carriages? I always think ‘get over there [to the women-only carriage]!’ because there is a completely empty special-use carriage.
Their anger should be directed toward chikan [gropers]. I was so anxious about chikan when I was a high-school girl and during my university days. Those idiots who grope girls are the ones in the wrong.
I mean it’s no joke if you get falsely accused [of being a groper]! Stuff everyone on board, please.
I won’t ride the women-only carriage.
Why would it be illegal, anyway? Why would you be arrested for riding the train? Even an idiot could see that.