Invisible-ink stamps to ID gropers sell out in minutes

Device to be used on Japan's public transport

By Amy Woodyatt and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN

A stamp-maker in Japan has developed an 'anti-groping' stamp to discourage rush-hour harassment.

(CNN) - A new device aimed at tackling sexual harassment on crowded trains and public transport sold out just half an hour after it went on sale in Japan.

The "anti-groping" stamps, manufactured by stamp-maker Shachihata Inc., allow victims of harassment to mark their assailants with invisible ink, and also provide a deterrent to would-be attackers.

A limited run of 500 stamps, which retailed at 2,500 yen (about $24), sold out within 30 minutes of going on sale on Tuesday, a company spokesman told CNN.

In May, Shachihata said it would develop the stamp after discussions erupted on social networking sites about how to discourage groping -- known as "chikan" -- on crowded trains.

One social media user suggested pricking the offender's hands with a safety pin, while others pointed out that this could be a crime in itself.

Others suggested stamps could be used to mark and shame offenders. Shachihata, a well-known stamp maker in Japan, hinted it might be able to help to develop the product, and after three months the company revealed trial sales for its first model.

In a test-run sale, the stamps sold out within 30 minutes, Shachihata Inc. spokesman Fumihiro Mukai told CNN.

"I was so surprised how quickly they were sold out," he said.

Although police have not been involved in the development of the stamp, Mukai told CNN that the company is hopeful that it will help curb sexual harassment.

Japan is ranked 110th out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum's index measuring gender equality.

The country also ranks bottom among G7 countries for gender equality, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pledge to empower working women through a policy called "womenomics."

- Yoko Wakatsuki reported from Tokyo and Amy Woodyatt wrote from London.

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