TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - About 60 per cent of flight attendants have fallen prey to surreptitious photographing and filming while on duty, but many of them face difficulties in charging offenders over such acts in the sky.
The Japan Federation of Aviation Industry Unions - a Tokyo-based labour union for workers in the aviation industry - conducted a nationwide survey from April to June on flight attendants who work for its six member companies, including Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
The survey, the first of its kind, received answers from 1,623 respondents and revealed that about 60 per cent of those asked have either been photographed or filmed secretly, or without any prior consent, or believe they have been, while aboard a plane.
In Japan, such acts can be punished under nuisance-prevention ordinances set by each prefectural government if they are committed on public transportation.
However during a flight, it is difficult to determine the plane's geographic location at the time such an offence was committed. As a result, there have been many cases in which the victims have had to simply put up with the situation. Given these circumstances, some have voiced the need for a relevant legislative improvement.
According to the survey, 359 respondents, or 22.1 per cent, answered that they have been photographed or filmed secretly, or without any prior consent.
The survey also found that 641 respondents, or 39.5 per cent, said they could not confirm such an act but believed it had happened.
The respondents cited among the reasons why they believed it had happened as that they were told of the acts by others, or that they themselves had found a smartphone camera placed in a particular location to take upskirt shots.
Of the 359 cabin crew members who answered they have been secretly photographed or filmed, only about 40 per cent dealt with cases by such means as handing offenders over to police or making them delete the photos in question.
However, 57.7 per cent said they could not deal with these cases. Some said that the suspected offenders refused to confirm the photos in question, while some others said they were daunted by the brash behaviour of offenders who said they would post comments on social networking sites claiming unfair treatment by flight attendants.
A flight attendant in her 30s who works for a major airline once discovered a male passenger with a camera hidden in the toe of his socks during a domestic flight. She asked him to accompany her to the in-flight kitchen where she asked for his cooperation in examining the camera in question. This revealed more upskirt shots of other flight attendants in his camera.
"I was in a state of righteous zeal (while dealing with the man), but offenders don't necessarily respond (like this one did)," she recalled. She handed the man over to police after landing, but it is believed he did not receive any criminal punishment.
LEGISLATIVE ACTION URGED
Non-consensual photographing and filming are usually subject to nuisance-prevention ordinances enforced by local governments in Japan. However, if these acts take place in flight, it is necessary to identify the geographic location where the plane was flying at the time of the act in order to determine which local government's ordinance would apply.
If offences take place on international flights, local government ordinances do not apply once the aircraft leaves Japanese airspace.
In 2012, a domestic flight passenger was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department on suspicion of secretly taking upskirt shots of a flight attendant and thus violating Hyogo Prefecture's nuisance-prevention ordinance. However, the man was not indicted.
It is believed that prosecutors concluded that they were unable to establish that the plane was actually flying over the prefecture at the time of the offence.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aeronautics Law prohibits nuisance behaviours that disrupt safe operations as safety-impeding acts. Under the enforcement regulations, smoking in restrooms and leaving luggage near emergency exits are deemed as such acts. However, there is no mention of non-consensual photographing and filming in this regard.
According to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, when secretly photographing or filming or doing so without any prior consent interferes with flight attendants' duties, such acts can be subject to punishment. However, that would apply only in cases when offenders repeat the act following an order to stop.
The Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan, an industry group of airline companies, has put up posters at main airports instructing passengers not to photograph or film secretly or without prior consent while aboard a plane.