Woman sues Tokyo medical schools over discrimination

The woman had failed to get into three Tokyo universities: Tokyo Medical (above), Showa and Juntendo.
The woman had failed to get into three Tokyo universities: Tokyo Medical (above), Showa and Juntendo.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese woman Wednesday (June 5) sued three Tokyo medical schools she says rejected her because of her gender and age, in a case her lawyer said was the "tip of the iceberg".

Last year it emerged that medical universities had routinely altered the admissions test scores of applicants to keep some of them out, including scores of women.

In some cases universities sought to keep the number of women in the student body low, and in others they discriminated against people who had applied unsuccessfully in the past or were not fresh high school graduates.

The woman filing the suit was a medical worker who decided to apply for medical school in her 20s.

She failed to get into three Tokyo universities: Tokyo Medical, Showa and Juntendo.

After the admissions scandal erupted last year, prompting a government investigation, the three schools notified her that they had indeed unfairly altered her admission test scores based on her gender and age.

The woman, who spoke to media anonymously on Wednesday, says she was told by the schools that her score should have qualified her for admission to all three institutions.

"I felt so much despair and anger" when she learnt of the scandal, she told reporters Wednesday.

"The reason I failed was I'm a woman, wasn't 18 or 19 years old, and none of my relatives were doctors at the schools."

 
 
 
 

She is now seeking a combined 36 million yen (S$453,960) in damages from the three schools in her suit filed with the Tokyo District Court.

The woman, who became a medical student this year after passing an exam at a different university, said she hopes her suit will encourage fairer admissions.

"She is just the tip of the iceberg," said lead lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai.

She represents "many other invisible victims" who are already in other professions or studying in other medical schools, he noted.

Juntendo University did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the lawsuit, while Showa and Tokyo Medical said they could not comment until they have seen official documents involved in the suit.

The scandal emerged last year with Tokyo Medical admitting it sought to keep the number of women in the student body low, reportedly out of a belief that they would leave the profession or work fewer hours when they married and had families.

The scandal caused outrage in Japan and abroad and prompted an education ministry investigation, in addition to independent probes at schools, which have together implicated at least 10 institutions.