After a four-year battle, female plaintiffs who sued a top medical university in Japan for gender discrimination won compensation at Tokyo District Court on 19 May.
Juntendo University was ordered to pay JPY8m (US$63,000) to the 13 students who had sued the institution, which is linked to a large hospital, reports University World News.
After a government investigation, in 2018, Juntendo University acknowledged it had made it harder for female students to pass entrance exams. The plaintiffs had taken the entrance tests between 2011 and 2018 and had demanded JPY55m (US$434,000) in damages.
Juntendo University said it had raised the bar for women in the entrance exams to “narrow the gap with male students”.
In the verdict, the court said the practice of lowering the exam results of female candidates was discriminatory and that private universities were obliged to respect the Constitution that prohibited discrimination by sex.
Despite the women receiving only a small share of the level of compensation they had demanded, higher education experts view the breakthrough as a long-awaited change in opening the closed medical community in Japan’s paternalistic society.
The percentage of female doctors in Japan was 22% in 2019, the lowest among 37 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“The preference for male doctors as the future hospital workers because they are cost-effective is old fashioned,” said Yukiko Ito, a scholar in health economics at the college of policy studies at Tsuda University. Tsuda is a women’s college and a pioneer in female empowerment since 1900.
The scandal of systematically lowering the scores of female candidates taking the exam first surfaced in 2017 and involved two other private universities, Tokyo Medical University and Kitasato University.
New data released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology showed that in 2021 the average pass rate for women at universities with medical faculties was higher than for males – 13.60% compared with 13.51% for men.
This is the first time women have had a higher pass rate. Experts say the results are in response to steps taken by the ministry, which has prohibited all faculties, including medical faculties, from discriminating against people based on gender and age at entrance exams.
Japan has 78,000 female doctors, only 20% of the total number of doctors employed in the country.
Since the scandal, a female president has taken over Tokyo Medical University and overhauled the admissions process.
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