By Sakura Uchikoshi

On August 2, 2018, I held my breath at the news that Tokyo Medical University has deliberately been lowering entrance exam scores of female applicants in order to keep the number of female students below 30%.

Not only Tokyo Medical University but Juntendo University, Kitasato University, and St. Mariannna University School of Medicine have, or are suspected of having, similar gender-discriminating scoring practices according to the investigation published by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [MEXT] in December.

I knew that in our society there remains deep-rooted discrimination against women. Nevertheless, I believed there couldn’t be gender discrimination in a place like a college entrance examination where scores objectively evaluate everyone. I felt pained when I realized how naïve I was.

But the pain I felt was nothing compared to that felt by women who had been forced to fail because of gender discrimination. Study hard and you will be rewarded—with that belief I worked like crazy to pass college entrance examinations and judicial examinations. And now, what if you were a female candidate and failed because of this manipulation? I can’t even imagine.

Everyone must be shocked, I thought, but it wasn’t necessarily so. People say, nonchalantly, “That practice has been around for a long time. There must be more cases than what MEXT officially admitted. You cannot help it when you think of the actual medical scene.” As if it was cool as adults to accept such gender inequality in society. But, wasn’t it we adults who have given up that allowed society to keep letting young people down like this?

It is hard to raise voices without giving up. When I was a legal apprentice in the 53rd class at the Legal Research and Training Institute from 1999 to 2000, there was an open secret; that is, “there is a female category in the prosecutor’s nomination.”

“Female category” means “an explicit or implied arrangement, agreement or practice upon selecting judicial apprentices as appointees of prosecutors that limits the number of female appointees to, in principle, one per class at the Legal Research and Training Institute; two is an exception.” Isn’t that discrimination against women?

We volunteers from the 53rd class have started a campaign for the elimination of the custom. [Japan Federation of Bar Associations “Requests to Minister of Justice Moriyama concerning Appointment of Prosecutors” /document/opinion/year/2001/2001 - 21.html].

Since then, the number of female prosecutor appointees has increased, and the proportion of women prosecutors is 23.5% as of March 2017, which is even higher than that of judges (21.3% as of December 2016) or lawyers (18.4% as of September 2016). [“White Paper on Gender Equality 2018” .html].

Now we can assert that our movement contributed to this improvement, but back then when we raised our voices, I, for one, needed some courage. Yes, I was saying the right thing, but what if I made the Institute angry and they wouldn’t let me pass the two-time examinations, which were required to become a legal professional? I had to pull myself together, saying to myself “how would I become a lawyer who could fight against discrimination and champion human rights?” But I was frightened. So, I can imagine how difficult it would be for young people who want to make their career in the medical world to accuse medical schools of injustice.

Still, we want our voices heard. We, as lawyers, want to support young people. It was not just me who thought this way. This is LEDAWE––Lawyers Group Advocating Elimination of Gender Discrimination in Entrance Examination for Medical Schools in Japan––established on August 21, 2018, by a large number of lawyers from all over the country.

From now on, we will report our activities and share our thoughts in this series of essays!

Translated by Yoko Morgenstern
Original article in Japanese