Japanese man sues Fukuoka Women's University over rejection of application

TOKYO (AFP) - A young Japanese man who was rejected by an all-women university where he wanted to study nutrition is suing the college over gender discrimination, reports said on Wednesday.

In what is believed to be the first case in Japan challenging the constitutionality of a publicly-run women's university, the man is seeking a ruling that would allow him to take an entrance exam at Fukuoka Women's University, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

"Not allowing men to take the exam violates Article 14 of the constitution which proclaims equality before the law," said the man, who was not identified in the report. He also wants 500,000 yen (S$5,515) compensation.

Kyodo News cited his lawyer as saying: "In the past, women's universities had the role of giving preferential treatment to women who had fewer opportunities for education, but that role is no longer necessary."

Earlier this month, the plaintiff applied to the department of food and health sciences at the university for a course that would result in a dietitian's licence, a nationally-recognised qualification, the reports said.

Fukuoka Women's University was the only public institution in the area to offer the course, and the young man could not afford to apply to a private college, the Asahi reported.

A university official declined to comment on the specific case, but added: "Generally speaking if we receive an application from a man we refuse to accept it."

"We have 91 years of history as a women's university with the mission of educating the next generation of female leaders, and this remains unchanged to this day," the spokesman said.

The university's website shows the majority of professors who teach there are male, as is the institution's president.

An education ministry official in charge of university entrance examinations told AFP: "Each university has the right to set exam conditions and establish goals for the kind of education they offer."

Japan's record on gender equality is not good, with its highly-educated women vastly underemployed, amid charges of entrenched and institutionalised sexism.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made raising the profile of women in the workforce a key part of his wider bid - dubbed "Abenomics" - to revive the world's No. 3 economy.