A medical university that secretly made entrance exams more difficult for women than men has been ordered to pay compensation by the Tokyo district court, a rare acknowledgement that Japanese schools systematically kept women out of classrooms.
Tokyo’s Juntendo University denied discriminating against women. The school claimed it raised the bar for female applicants because they were more mature than men of the same age and better at “communicating,” which it said gave them an unfair advantage over their male counterparts.
The school also argued that it turned away women due to a lack of space in female dormitories. All first-year students are required to live in residence halls.
But the court dismissed these claims on Thursday and ruled in favor of 13 female former applicants who sued the university in 2019.
The presiding judge cited evidence that even after the school expanded its female dormitory capacity, it failed women applicants based on their gender. Determining that these exams were “unfair,” the judge ordered Juntendo University to pay about 8 million yen ($62,546) in emotional damages to the ex-applicants, on the grounds that concealing this gender-based criterion infringed the women’s freedom to consider whether they should apply to the school.
The women sued the school after a 2018 government investigation found that medical schools manipulated entrance exams to favor male candidates. The Thursday ruling was the first of several similar lawsuits to conclude and could pave the way for further victories for female applicants to Japanese education institutions.
Among the 81 it examined, the government found four institutions had discriminatory practices in place, including Juntendo and the famed Tokyo Medical University. When the government first announced their findings, Japanese media reported that some admissions officers believed women would leave the medical profession anyway, or work fewer hours, to have children.
The 13 former applicants welcomed Thursday’s judgment. Each of them was awarded about 300,000 yen ($2,346) to 900,000 yen ($7,036) in damages, intended to cover transportation and test fees, which were about 60,000 yen ($469) per exam.
But their lawyers said the compensation, about seven times less than what they asked for, did not fully recognize the emotional turmoil the women went through.
The court didn’t award the full amount sought—$427,000—because the women’s emotional damages were somewhat alleviated when the school got rid of its discriminatory practices following the government probe, it ruled.
But even if the school got rid of its sexist practices, that didn’t mean the women stopped being victims of a past discriminatory system, Yasuko Sasa, one of the lawyers representing the former applicants, told VICE World News.
The 13 women took the university’s entrance exams between 2011 and 2018. Two of them would’ve passed, had the passing criteria not been manipulated, the court was told.