Hokkaido leads in compulsory sterilization with 2,593 victims

From The Asahi

February 20th 2018

Hokkaido’s record of compulsory sterilizations over nearly five decades far outstrips any other jurisdiction in Japan, with at least 2,593 people forced to undergo the procedure due to intellectual disability or other grounds, records show.

Hokkaido prefectural authorities released data Feb. 19 on forced sterilizations under the postwar Eugenic Protection Law aimed at “preventing the birth of inferior offspring.”

Asked why the figure for Hokkaido was so high, Yuji Hanaoka, a senior prefectural official, said, “We believe it resulted from Hokkaido officials’ eagerness to comply with the national policy in tandem with other entities.”

For the period between fiscal 1962 and fiscal 1973, 1,129 people–233 males and 896 females–were judged as “appropriate” to undergo forced sterilization, of which 172 were minors.

The youngest male was 14 and the youngest female was 11. Most of the rest were in their 20s and 30s.

Hokkaido officials said they plan to compile an exhaustive report by the middle of next month, examining records for the other years.

The law was in effect from 1948 through 1996, when it was renamed the Maternity Protection Law and the provision concerning eugenic sterilization was removed.

Latest central government statistics on forced sterilizations performed between 1949 and 1996 showed that Hokkaido was followed by Miyagi Prefecture with 1,406 operations and Okayama Prefecture with 845 operations. These figures do not include cases that occurred in 1952 and 1953 because it is not clear where those operations were performed.

Authorities were empowered to compel people with certain conditions, such as mental disorders, hereditary diseases or Hansen’s disease, to undergo abortions or sterilization.

At least 16,475 males and females nationwide underwent such surgery through 1996, according to central government statistics.

The figures were compiled on the basis of reports from each of the nation’s 47 prefectures.

Thirty percent of the victims were male.

In Miyagi Prefecture, a woman in her 60s who was sterilized at 15 filed the first lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Eugenic Protection Law at the Sendai District Court last month. She is seeking 11 million yen ($103,100) in compensation.

Another woman in her 70s said in an interview Feb. 19 that she is considering a similar lawsuit.

Miyagi Prefecture has already released records on 859 people who were made sterile between fiscal 1963 and fiscal 1981.

A nonpartisan group of Diet members is expected to be formed next month to sponsor a bill providing redress and call for a fact-finding investigation into the issue.

Although victims and their support groups have called for relief measures and a full investigation into the issue, the central government has maintained it was not liable as forced sterilization was lawful at that time.

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