Give relief as quickly as possible to victims of forced sterilization
“The working team does not plan to notify each victim individually. The team cited reasons including, “Some people do not want others to know they underwent this surgery.” Instead, the relief program will be publicized and the people will be urged to apply for redress.”
Relief should be provided to as many of the victims as possible. It is significant that politically driven concrete measures to achieve this goal have taken shape.
A working team of the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition ally, Komeito, has settled on the outline of a bill to provide relief to people with mental and other disabilities who underwent sterilization surgery under the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law.
A main pillar of the bill is the provision of a one-off payment to help the victims, regardless of whether they have surgical records or gave consent themselves for the operations. The bill also will contain clear expressions of remorse and apology. The bill will be integrated with relief measures under consideration by a suprapartisan group of lawmakers and is scheduled to be submitted to next year’s ordinary Diet session as lawmaker-initiated legislation.
About 16,500 people underwent forced sterilizations under the law. This figure rises to about 25,000 when cases in which people gave consent for these operations are included. Considering that there were cases in which parents hesitating to give consent eventually were compelled to do so, providing relief also to people whose operations had consent is reasonable.
A third-party organization to be established within the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will be responsible for certifying who is eligible to receive redress. A major problem is the fact that surgical records and other documents that can pinpoint individuals who underwent forced sterilization apparently still exist for, at most, only about 20 percent of people who had these operations.
In cases for which records do not exist, the working team says that the victims will be certified based on scars left by the operations or their own testimony, as well as evidence given by others. Confirming a scar is from an operation performed several decades ago will not be simple. It can be assumed people with mental and other disabilities might not be able to accurately detail what happened to them. The third-party organization must give consideration to each individual’s circumstances and be flexible with its certification program.
Study how to notify victims
How to tell the victims that they are eligible to receive relief also is a knotty problem.
The working team does not plan to notify each victim individually. The team cited reasons including, “Some people do not want others to know they underwent this surgery.” Instead, the relief program will be publicized and the people will be urged to apply for redress.
If individual notifications are not issued, some people probably will not realize they are victims deserving compensation. While giving proper consideration to privacy concerns, surely one option would be to at least notify people for whom surgical records remain. The working team should carefully consider this matter and take into account the opinions of relevant organizations.
The framework for this relief package is modeled on the compensation program for former Hansen’s disease patients who were forcibly kept in isolation. After the court ruling declaring the state’s defeat in a case demanding compensation from the central government was finalized, a lawmaker-initiated legislation to compensate those victims came into effect and the state paid compensation to them.
Lawsuits in which 13 plaintiffs are seeking damages from the state over the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law are pending in six district courts across the nation.
The plaintiffs are demanding an apology on the premise that the law was unconstitutional. If the relief package offered, including the amount of the one-off payment, diverges greatly from the demands of the victims, the dispute could end up becoming protracted.
The victims are becoming increasingly elderly. While paying attention to developments in the court cases, the best course of action for quickly providing relief to many victims should be studied.