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Tokyo police are considering women-only rail cars to protect female riders from groping on crowded trains and subways.

Katsuo Hamano, the deputy chief of the Ueno Police Department, suggested the sexually segregated cars as a way to prevent unwelcome fondling on Tokyo's packed commuter trains.

"We can only mete out punishment if the incident is reported, but there are many women who won't report it because of shame or fear. We need a countermeasure for them," he said.

Violent crime is relatively rare in Japan, but groping -- ranging from rubbing up against a victim to thrusting a hand under her clothing -- is a common occurrence, especially on packed trains.

A women's group in Osaka, Japan's second-largest city, said three-quarters of women in their 20s and 30s who responded to a 1994 questionnaire reported encountering a groper at least once. The victims said fellow passengers, even if they were aware of what was going on, almost never intervened.

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