HOME > CASES&JUDGMENTS > Judgments > Case wherein the court denied illegality of women-only train carriages

[December 2017]

Case wherein the court denied illegality of women-only train carriages

A man (hereinafter called "X") got on a women-only train carriage together with four male members of a voluntary group against women-only train carriages with prior announcement. Later, X filed a suit against the railway company for torts, alleging reasons including that the company virtually prohibited healthy adult males from boarding women-only train carriages, which violated the Constitution and represented a tort. X claimed damages against the company, and demanded publication of an apology and removal of women-only carriage signs.

The court construed that the railway company had been justifiable in providing women-only train carriages and in putting up women-only carriage signs based on the purpose and hours for women-only carriages. Accordingly, the court dismissed all of X's claims.

The precedent serves as an example wherein the court made a judgment on the system of women-only train carriages. (Judgment on July 12, 2011 by the Tokyo District Court)

Westlaw Japan

Summary of the case

Plaintiff:
X (man)

Defendant:
Y (railway company)

Party concerned:
A (voluntary group against women-only train carriages)

Since September 1, 2005, Y has provided women-only carriages during specified hours on weekdays. The backmost carriage on trains running early morning till 9:00 and the first carriage on trains leaving station "a" after 18:00 on weekdays have been dedicated to women, children of elementary school age or younger, physically handicapped persons and their carers. Women-only carriage signs were posted on woman-only carriages and platform walls. The system of women-only carriages has been implemented in voluntary cooperation with passengers and has not been regulated as transportation terms under Article 3 of the Railway Operation Act. Hearing prior announcement that some members of group "A" would board a women-only carriage on June 27, 2008, X went to station "a" and got on the women-only carriage on the train leaving station "b" at 20:24 on the same day together with other four male passengers. In response to the above prior announcement, Y's stationmaster of station "a" informed the railway police of the matter and waited for X, etc. The stationmaster tried to persuade them not to get on the women-only carriage, but in vain. The stationmaster boarded the women-only carriage together with four railway police officials and two security guards. The train left on time. When the train stopped at station "c" around 20:30, X, etc. got off the train together with the railway police officials, etc.

X insisted as follows: (1) Any passengers should be eligible to get on women-only carriages. Y virtually prohibits healthy adult males from boarding women-only carriages, which infringes free choice of where to live and freedom of movement guaranteed in the Constitution, and constitutes a tort. (2) Y forcibly removed X, etc. from the woman-only carriage, which also constitutes a tort

Y claimed damages (3,000,000 yen for pain and suffering) against Y and demanded publication of an apology from Y, alleging that he had suffered tremendous emotional pain when he had been treated like a criminal in public and had been slandered, in addition to being interrupted to get to the intended destination by using the preferable carriage on the train.

The point of dispute in this case was whether or not Y's conduct was illegal in providing women-only carriages and not posting that any passengers might board these carriages.

Reasons

Provision of women-only carriages by Y

While it is a matter of course that fundamental human rights of X, etc. are guaranteed under the Constitution, it is undeniable that Y as a juridical person has freedom of business, which is also guaranteed under the Constitution (Article 22-1). Therefore, Y has discretion to conduct business and decide details of business operations. In addition, many railway companies including Y provide women-only carriages during overcrowded commuting hours on weekdays in large urban areas including Tokyo in order to provide somewhat safer and more comfortable environment to female passengers at risk of being sexually harassed. It should be said that the purpose is justifiable. Moreover, Y's women-only carriages are provided only during commuting hours on weekdays, and just one of the overall six carriages on each train is specified as women-only. The system does not make healthy adult male passengers difficult to board other carriages to get to the destination, and is not particularly detrimental to healthy adult male passengers. In light of the above purpose of women-only carriages, it is important to ensure the system of women-only carriages and it is beyond dispute that Y needs to inform all the passengers including men about the system. Users of Y's trains are many and unspecified, so it is construed that Y needed to simplify women-only carriage signs as much as possible to disseminate the system to many and unspecified users. Therefore, it is unreasonable to consider that Y's conduct is beyond its discretion and illegal in putting up notices to inform that women-only carriages are exclusive to women, children of elementary school age or younger, physically handicapped persons and their carers, not posting that healthy adult males may also board. It cannot be said that the system lacks social reasonableness and constitutes a tort against male passengers.

Illegality of the conduct by the railway police against X

X, etc. insisted that they had not intended to disturb operation of trains or to bother other passengers, but they had been forced to get off Y's women-only carriage by Y or the railway police on the day of incident. It's easy to assume that existence of several healthy adult males in a women-only carriage gives a considerable sense of unease to female passengers there. In that case, Y, an operator of the public transportation, is expected to make utmost efforts to get rid of uneasiness of passengers in the women-only carriage. Therefore, it cannot be definitively said that Y's rather forceful persuasion to X, etc. is beyond social reasonableness. Although it was acknowledged that one of the railway police officials had told X, etc. in the women-only carriage something like "We will arrest you if requested by the stationmaster", which is not necessarily appropriate, it is not recognized that the conduct of the railway police constitutes a tort, and there is no evidence to prove that Y's staff members or the railway police officials physically forced X, etc. to get off the train at station "c". There's no evidentiary support for X's claim that X was treated like a criminal by Y or the railway police, so it is not possible to adopt X's claim.

Explanation

Recently, many railway companies provide women-only carriages during commuting hours in large urban areas like Tokyo. There have been incidents in connection with sexual harassment during commuting hours on weekdays, so it is assumed that these railway companies intended to provide female passengers at risk of being sexually harassed with safe and comfortable commuting environment during overcrowded commuting hours in large urban areas. On the other hand, there have been some cases where several male members of groups against women-only carriages boarded a women-only carriage as a demonstration on a specified date in a planned way with prior announcement and encouragement, carrying a placard with a slogan.

In the above case, several adult males got on a women-only carriage in response to such encouragement by the group, and the railway company heard about the plan of demo in advance and asked the railway police for cooperation. On the day of demo, the railway company together with the railway police tenaciously persuaded the male passengers not to get on the women-only carriage. Then, X filed a suit against the railway company Y. X demanded Y to refrain from posting women-only carriage signs, insisting that the system of women-only carriages violated equality before the law and freedom of movement guaranteed by the Constitution. The court construed that the system of women-only carriages was justifiable based on the purpose, hours, and limited provision of women-only carriages (just one of the overall six carriages on each train is specified as women-only, and adult males can board any of the remaining five carriages). The court also construed that the posting of the women-only carriage signs was justifiable.

There is a precedent wherein several male members of a group against women-only carriages boarded on a women-only carriage as a demonstration and claimed damages against the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, insisting that the conduct of police officials when getting on the carriage at that time was illegal under the State Redress Act. The court stated as follows: "Recently, many railway companies provide women-only carriages during crowded commuting hours in urban areas and the existence thereof has been widely recognized by society in general (public knowledge)". The claim was dismissed.

X also insisted that Y unjustly earned from advertising mainly aimed at women in the women-only carriages. In this respect, the court construed as follows: "Y's purpose for providing women-only carriages is justifiable. Even if Y earned a side income from advertising in the women-only carriages, it is unreasonable to consider that the Y's conduct was unjustifiable".

Both of the above judgments are reasonable and serve as references for similar cases.

Reference precedent

Judgment by the Tokyo District Court on June 13, 2012 (Westlaw Japan)