Photo/IllutrationThe application form for public high schools in Osaka Prefecture, top, which was used in the entrance examinations held in spring 2018, has a gender box while the form, below, to be used in spring 2019, does not. (Asahi Shimbun file photos)

Sixteen prefectures have abolished or are considering abolishing gender boxes on application forms for public high schools, recognizing the difficulty the question poses to sexual minorities, such as transgender students.

Of the 16, Osaka and Fukuoka will do so starting with entrance examinations in spring 2019. The remaining 14 are also considering making the change beginning with entrance exams in spring 2020 or later.

The 16 have studied the issue out of consideration for students who may feel discomfort with their gender identities, according to the prefectural governments.

A growing number of local governments, including municipal governments, are abolishing gender boxes from application forms submitted by the public due to consideration for sexual minorities.

At such a time, the prefectural governments of Osaka and Fukuoka decided to abolish gender boxes from high school application forms, starting with entrance examinations to be held in spring 2019.

Following the announcements, The Asahi Shimbun surveyed all 47 prefectures in Japan with a questionnaire from November to December.

At the time of entrance examinations, the application forms are submitted by students applying for high school admission. The students fill in such items as their addresses and names.

According to the survey, gender boxes existed on high school application forms for 45 prefectures with the exclusion of Osaka and Fukuoka. In the application forms of 43 of the 45 prefectures, students were required to choose from either “male” or “female.”

In the remaining two prefectures, Mie and Shiga, they were required to write either “male” or “female” in the gender boxes but were also allowed to leave them blank.

Of the 14 prefectures that may abolish gender boxes, three are considering making the change starting with entrance examinations to be held in spring 2020. The three are Kanagawa, Kumamoto and Tokushima.

The remaining 11 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Shiga and Kyoto, did not disclose when they will do away with gender boxes. Shiga allows high school applicants to leave the gender boxes blank but is also considering removing them from the forms.

Meanwhile, 13 of the 47 prefectures, such as Akita and Aichi, said that they will consider how to deal with the issue or have yet to decide their stances.

Gunma Prefecture, one of the 13, said, “We will consider it while looking at the nationwide trend.”

Ehima Prefecture responded, “We will make a judgment while seeing the circumstances of other administrative documents.”

On the other hand, 18 prefectures, including Tokyo and Mie, replied that they are not considering removing gender boxes from their application forms because of the difficulty it would create in distinguishing between the sexes.

One of these, Yamaguchi Prefecture, said, “If a classroom is mostly occupied by students of one gender at the time of entrance examinations, a restroom near the classroom will become crowded.”

Tochigi Prefecture responded, “After students pass their entrance examinations, (their genders written in the gender boxes) will be used for reference when the students are divided into classes.”

Mie Prefecture has allowed students to leave the gender boxes blank since entrance examinations in spring 2018. However, it said that it is not considering removing gender boxes from its high school admission forms.

As reference material for dividing students into classes and other purposes, Osaka and Fukuoka prefectures plan instead to utilize the genders written on “chosasho,” or reports written by junior high school teachers about each student and submitted to high schools along with application forms.

By doing so, the two prefectures hope to avoid causing pain that some students feel when they are forced to write their genders down on the forms. The two prefectures said that there should be no major adverse effects to the schools' actual tasks.

“For some children, it causes them considerable pain to write down genders that are not suitable for their identities,” said Junko Mitsuhashi, a part-time lecturer of gender history at Meiji University, who is a transgender.

“It is important that guidelines that do not require students to specify their genders are worked out at the initiative of the education ministry and are spread throughout the country,” she added.