Med school discrimination sparks protests in Japan


Sun, Aug 05, 2018 - Page 5

The Japanese government urged a medical university to promptly disclose the results of an investigation into its admissions process following reports that it had altered the test scores of female applicants for years to deny them entry and ensure fewer women became doctors.

The manipulation started at Tokyo Medical University after the share of successful female applicants reached 38 percent of the total in 2010, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Thursday, citing unidentified sources.

Subsequent reports said the alterations might have started even earlier.

Japan Broadcasting Corp reported that the manipulation in some years had removed as much as 10 percent of women whose true scores merited acceptance, adding up to perhaps hundreds of denials for nearly a decade due to systematic discrimination.

On Friday night, dozens of people gathered outside the university holding banners and posters with messages such as “Protest against sexist entrance exams,” and “You trampled on the efforts and lives of women who trusted and chose you.”

Social networks were flooded with angry messages.

“We have seen shutters come down right in front of us just because we are women, and we should not let our younger generations go through the same horrible experience,” tweeted Minori Kitahara, a writer and feminist activist who was at the rally.

Nearly half of women in Japan are college graduates — among the highest numbers in the world — but they often face discrimination in the workforce.

Women are considered responsible for homemaking, childrearing and elderly care, while men are expected to work long hours and outside care services are limited.

The school’s public affairs department said it had no knowledge of the reported manipulation, but is investigating.

The school is already facing a separate scandal involving the inappropriate admission of a top education bureaucrat’s son and was ordered by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to investigate its admissions records for the past six years.

The school on Thursday said it will combine the examination of the score manipulation allegation with that probe.

The report from the school’s investigation can be expected sometime next week, the ministry said.

The share of female doctors who have passed the national medical exam has stayed at about 30 percent for more than 20 years, prompting speculation that interference in admissions is widespread at Japanese medical schools.

The report sparked outrage across Japan and criticism from Cabinet officials.

Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda on Friday told reporters that she is taking the alleged wrongdoing “extremely seriously.”

“Any admissions process that wrongfully discriminates against women is absolutely not acceptable,” Noda said. “It is extremely important to improve the working environment so that women can pursue their medical professions.”