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Battle of the sexes on Tokyo trains after groping claims

Many women taking crowded trains in Tokyo opt for women-only carriages during the rush hour to avoid gropers. Now, for fear of being accused of groping, some citizens are asking for carriages reserved solely for men.

Ten shareholders of Seibu Holdings, which runs trains in the Tokyo area, have petitioned for male-only carriages. "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 week.

"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."

Around 2,000 people were arrested in Tokyo for groping in 2007, data from the police showed. Many crowded train lines, including Seibu lines, now designate a carriage just for women during the rush hour. But false accusations of groping were highlighted in April when Japan's Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a professor for groping a girl on a Tokyo train. The judges pointed out the need to be careful when the accuser was the only source of evidence.

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.