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Sunday, May 6, 2001

RUN FOR COVERAGE

Insurers reach out to women at risk


Staff writer

"Korobanu saki no tsue," goes an old Japanese saying. Literally "a cane before stumbling," the maxim holds that preparedness can soften, if not prevent, a fall. Today, insurance is often the cane people keep in hand.

Following recent deregulations, you can get coverage for just about anything. So in addition to auto insurance and fire insurance, major Japanese insurers are now offering coverage against cancer and nursing care. The latest product from Tokyo Marine & Fire Insurance Co. is for potential stalking victims.

Introduced in January, "Lady Guard" is designed particularly for women between the ages of 15 and 35, covering the cost of necessary measures against possible harm, damage caused by stalkers as well as medical treatment for any injury caused.

The product was the result of a proposal put forward by employees of the insurer who had seen stalking become a serious public concern in recent years.

According to the National Police Agency, the number of cases in which men or women sought help against stalkers grew to more than 11,000 in the first half of 2000, compared to some 8,000 in all of 1999 and 6,000 in 1998. To stem the growing tide, an antistalking law was put into effect in November. In the law's first month alone, police made 20 arrests and issued 86 warnings, but it is believed this reflects only a portion of total stalking cases.

Tokyo Marine & Fire, working with major security service provider Sogo Keibi Hosho Co., offers with its stalking coverage counseling on how to collect evidence toward the prosecution of stalkers. Those convicted under the new law face up to a year in prison and a fine of 1 million yen.

The product comes in three types, with annual premiums ranging from 28,230 yen to 49,200 yen. A spokeswoman for the insurer, Manami Imagi, could not give exact figures for the number of policies already sold but said it is doing well among parents of new college entrants.

Though currently available only in 11 prefectures, the product is set for nationwide launch soon, Imagi said.



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