Miyagi woman to sue Japanese government over forced sterilization under now-defunct eugenics law

From Jiji Press & Kyodo reprinted in The Japan Times

December 4th 2017

SENDAI – A woman in her 60s will sue the government for being forced to undergo sterilization on the grounds of her intellectual disability, according to informed sources.

The Miyagi Prefecture resident plans to file with the Sendai District Court in January at the earliest. She will claim the state infringed on her human rights through sterilization permitted by the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law, the sources said Sunday.

The lawsuit will be the first filed against the government over forced sterilization, said Koji Niisato, an attorney representing the woman.

The woman’s relatives said the plaintiff underwent sterilization when she was 15. She has no memory of agreeing to the operation and documents obtained from the Miyagi Prefectural Government suggest the operation was forced on her.

The woman has had a marriage proposal turned down because of her infertility. She plans to claim she was deprived of both the freedom to give birth and the right to self-determination, part of Japan’s constitutionally guaranteed right to pursue happiness. Additionally, she will say her dignity as an individual, also assured under the supreme law, was infringed upon. The amount of damages to be sought is yet to be decided.

In Japan, sterilization of patients with genetic disorders, intellectual disabilities and leprosy was allowed under the former law.

According to a statement by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, the number of sterilization operations conducted across the country under the law reached some 25,000.

In 1996, the law was amended into the Maternal Body Protection Law after the elimination of discriminatory clauses.

The woman’s attorneys are planning to launch a telephone consultation service for people who have gone through similar circumstances, with the possibility of filing a group lawsuit under consideration.

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