Two prefectures do away with once-standard question, over two dozen more consider following their lead.

Just about any stable job in Japan requires at least a high-school education, but compulsory education only lasts until the end of middle school (equivalent to the ninth grade in the U.S. school system). That means that students have to apply for admission to public high schools, usually by first applying to take the school’s entrance examination.

The application forms are pretty much what you’d imagine, asking applicants to provide information such as their name and address. However, as of this year, there’s one traditionally required piece of information some schools won’t be asking for: the child’s gender.

On applications for enrollment in the upcoming Japanese school year (which starts in the spring), public high schools in Osaka and Fukuoka Prefectures have abolished the gender question on students’ application paperwork. A third prefecture, Saga, still has a gender box on its application forms but allows applicants to leave that section blank.

The connection between entrance exams and gender may have some recalling the scandal that erupted when it came to light that Tokyo Medical University had been systematically reducing the test scores of female applicants for years. However, the decisions in Osaka and Fukuoka to stop asking high school applicants to specify their gender isn’t an attempt to avoid accusations of discriminatory application processes. According to a survey conducted by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the new policies are a response to growing acknowledgment of LGBT individuals, and are born of a desire to accommodate their personal identities.

The removal of the gender question (the specific Japanese term on the application forms was seibetsu, which can refer to both physical sex and gender identity) comes in the wake of such new policies as a middle school in Chiba Prefecture allowing male students to wear skirts as part of their uniform and another middle school in Kanagawa Prefecture giving female students the choice between wearing a skirt of long pants. While a gender question remains on public high school applications in 45 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, 14 of those 45, including Kanagawa, Kumamoto, and Tokushima, are considering removing the question for the 2020 school year, while an additional 11, such as Kyoto, Hokkaido, and Okayama, are also thinking of doing away with it, though without any concrete timeline for doing so.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Asahi Shimbun Digital via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso