Photo/IllutrationYukiko Tsunoda, left, and Sakura Uchikoshi, who jointly head a defense team to tackle discrimination against women in medical school exams, speak at a news conference held in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Aug. 21. (Tomoko Yamashita)

Defense lawyers from across the country teamed up on Aug. 21 to take action against Tokyo Medical University over a scandal in which entrance exam scores have been rigged to limit the number of female students.

“Discrimination against women has continued in this society,” said lawyer Yukiko Tsunoda, who is a co-leader of the defense team, during a news conference in Tokyo on Aug. 21. “How to eradicate sexism is now being called into question against the entire Japanese society.”

The team, which comprises a mix of 57 male and female lawyers from across the country, will demand that the university disclose exam scores as well as refund the exam fees at the request of failed applicants.

The medical school exam scandal exposed the harsh reality of bias against women in Japanese society--not only in medical school exams--but also in company employment exams.

When the team finds former applicants who failed the exam as a result of the Tokyo medical school’s manipulation of scores, it will also consider demanding the school admit the failed applicants and pay compensation.

The team has already been contacted by three women who failed the entrance exam at Tokyo Medical University.

“If I had known that sexism against women existed at the medical school, I would not have applied there,” said a woman in her 20s.

She is one of the three who has consulted with the team and now attends a different university after failing to be admitted to Tokyo Medical University in 2015.

She said names of medical schools in which female applicants are thought to have less chance of passing the entrance exam have been mentioned by others at cram schools.

Recent news report that divulged Tokyo Medical University's manipulation of entrance exam scores angered her, saying, “How could they (the medical school) have done such a thing?"

A distinctive characteristic of the medical school’s entrance exam is that enrolled students are selected on the basis that many of them would work for a hospital affiliated with the university after graduation.

Therefore, a medical school entrance exam can be described as being similar to an employment exam.

The woman said she was asked about marriage and giving birth in a roundabout way during interviews at two of the 10 private medical schools she had applied to.

Interviewers phrased the questions such as, “Tell us about the advantages and disadvantages for women becoming doctors.”

Kimiyoshi Tsukazaki, professor of Japanese economic theory at Kurume University in Fukuoka Prefecture, sees a similarity in sexism that often occurs in employment exams.

“Since (the medical school exam) has features of an employment exam and a general entrance exam, a problem that has frequently occurred in employment exams has arisen in medical school exams and has presumably fueled the public’s fury and sense of discomfort.”