Groping toward gender equality

The bodyguard for Japan's gender equity minister is accused of drunkenly molesting woman on train.

Published July 5, 2007 10:19PM (EDT)

In all the news that's fit to fondle: Hiring a bodyguard for a new minister of gender equity seems like a reasonable idea. Especially in a place like Japan where the aforementioned minister spearheaded a controversial new law that would allow women to retain their own names after marriage. But in this case, the bodyguard might prove more liability than protection.

As Reuters reported, the bodyguard of Japan's gender equality ministry has been arrested on suspicion of molesting a college student on a train. The bodyguard told the Kyodo news agency that he was drunk and did not remember the incident.

In Japan, gropers (chikan) on subways have long been a problem, with more than 4,000 men arrested in 2003 for groping on public transport; there are even stories (though dubiously sourced) about a groping club of professional men who meet to discuss their techniques. Back in 2000, there were a number of attempts to curb the chikan-ery -- including government campaigns to get women to accuse their gropers and train companies creating women-only carriages. But anti-groping actions have created their own set of problems -- women used the accusation to blackmail innocent men, leading them to their ATMs to withdraw cash in exchange for assurances that charges would be dropped. "I Just Didn't Do It," a documentary by Masayuki Suo released this spring, chronicles the story of one man who fought false charges of groping all the way to the Supreme Court and spent 14 months in jail.

In a country where men still dominate the business world, schoolgirls are insanely sexualized, and wives are expected to step and fetch it, any minister of gender equity has her work cut out for her without wondering about the intentions of her bodyguard. Maybe they ought to rethink the whole man equals protection thing, give the woman a Stun Master Hot Shot and call it a day.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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