Tokyo Medical University is a well-known private university in Japan. On August 2, the university became the focal point of controversy after the nation’s largest daily newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, published an investigative piece. The report revealed that over the past decade, the university had consistently been lowering the entrance test scores of female students, by 10 to 20 percent, in an effort to curtail female enrollment.
Statistics reveal that in 2018, out of the 1,019 female students who applied to the university, only 30 secured admission – less than 3% of the total female applicants.
An unnamed source divulged to the newspaper that the reason for the university’s actions was owing to the fact that, “Many female students who graduate end up leaving the actual medical practice to give birth and raise children.”
Contextually, Japan is currently facing major complications owing to the shortage of doctors, particularly due to the lack of clinical support for its aging population. The university hence seems to be attempting to justify this blatant discrimination, with generalization and conjecture about graduating females not pursuing careers. Such backward notions further restrict the combatting of gender roles and female representation in the workforce.
In fact, this aspect is particularly important when examining the case of Japan, which continues to fall in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) ranking system, based on the gender gap. It is currently scored below the Global Weighted Average and occupies the 114th position on the Gender Gap Index. This is a stark contrast to 2006, when Japan occupied the 80th position. These factors are vital in order to understand Japan’s current predicament and trend of negligence towards facets of gender parity.
Despite what defenders of the University’s actions say regarding the concerns about female graduates, it must be affirmed that this is not an act of necessary pragmatism. This is an act of discrimination.
The action of the university is an insult to Japan’s female demographic, a barricade to the nation’s social advancement and plainly put, is unconstitutional. Chapter 3, Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution, regarding the rights and duties of people, clearly establishes that “there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” Targeting qualified female applicants and contorting their scores to ensure low levels of female enrollment is hence a clear breach of the constitution and cannot be rationalized or defended.
It is now up to Japan to pull the reigns on this downward trend of gender disparity and take firmer actions against orthodox prejudice and violations of equal rights.