Photo/IllutrationThe entrance gate of Ochanomizu University on July 8 in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward (Mayumi Ujioka)

Four additional women’s universities are considering accepting transgender women students who are legally male following the recent decision by Ochanomizu University to change its admissions policy.

Ochanomizu University, a state-run college in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward, announced the policy on July 2 that will become effective from fiscal 2020.

The education ministry said Ochanomizu University’s decision is probably the first of its kind among women’s colleges in Japan. All the institutions in question have only accepted students who are legally women until now.

Two of the other women’s universities mulling the policy change are Tsuda University and Japan Women’s University, both located in Tokyo, where discussions have progressed in earnest.

Yuko Takahashi, president of Tsuda University in Kodaira, said, “We welcomed Ochanomizu University’s decision, which followed last year’s proposal by Japan Women’s University to discuss changing their policy on transgender students.”

Japan Women’s University in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward has been in discussions over the issue since fiscal 2017. The junior high school attached to the university received an inquiry in late 2015 from the parents of a prospective student who was legally a man but identified and lived as a woman.

Tsuda University started its own discussions from May 2017 at a committee consisting of its president, vice president and heads of each college. On July 2, the committee confirmed its intention to accept those students from fiscal 2020.

The university will make its final decision after explaining the new measure to faculty, students, parents and alumni.

“Women’s universities had provided a study environment for women whose opportunities have been limited. We judged that we should accept sexual minority people who are struggling to live their lives by expanding the definition of women,” Takahashi said.

Having held study sessions and meetings to exchange information with other women’s colleges, Japan Women’s University is considering the policy change with an eye on enacting it from fiscal 2020 to align with Ochanomizu University.

This fiscal year, the university will solicit comments from students, parents and alumni.

Satoko Oyama, head of the Faculty of Integrated Arts and Social Sciences and a member of the university’s board of directors said, “How to create a school where human rights are cherished is an issue for our university as a whole. Paying attention to the process, we want to continue having talks and discussions.”

Tokyo Woman’s Christian University in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward has also considered starting to accept the minority group in fiscal 2020 or later. A group consisting of the vice president and university faculty was set up last summer, and it will compile a basic guideline on the issue by the end of fiscal 2018.

Kazuhiro Mori, president of the university, said, “We consider the matter as a women’s university that lives together with social minority people based on the spirit of Christianity.”

Nara Women’s University in Nara, another state-run college, has also discussed giving transgender women the opportunity to sit for its entrance exam. Last autumn, the college set up a working group and started to discuss the issues that needed to be resolved to make the policy a reality.

“Considering the direction of society, there would not be a decision for our college not to accept (transgender women students)," said Vice President Hidemi Ogawa.

Since 2014, at least five women’s universities in the United States, including Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, have announced that they provide the opportunity for transgender female students to study at their schools.