Men-only train cars sought in Japan on groping fears

TOKYO Wed Jun 17, 2009 4:59am EDT

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Many women taking the crowded train in Tokyo opt for women-only carriages during the rush hour to avoid gropers.

Now, for fear of being accused of groping, some are asking for carriages reserved for men as well.

Ten shareholders of Seibu Holdings, which runs trains in the Tokyo area, have petitioned for carriages reserved for men.

"There have been many cases of groping, as well as false charges of groping, on Seibu Railway," the shareholders said in a notice seeking a vote at the company's annual meeting next Wednesday.

"While measures against groping, such as setting women-only carriages, have been effective to a certain extent, no measures have been taken against false charges of groping... In the spirit of gender-equality, a male-only carriage must be introduced."

False accusations of groping were highlighted when Japan's Supreme Court overturned in April the conviction of a professor for groping a girl on a Tokyo train.

Judges pointed out a need to be careful in such cases when the accuser was the only source of evidence, media said.

But the shareholder request for men's carriages may not be implemented, as Seibu's board of directors opposes the idea.

"The reality is that we have few requests from Seibu Railway users for setting up male-only carriages," the board said in its reply to the shareholder request.

In Tokyo, around 2,000 people were arrested for groping in 2007, data from the police showed. Many crowded train lines, including Seibu lines, designate a carriage just for women during the rush hour.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Rodney Joyce)

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