March 1st 2019
TOKYO — Japan’s ruling and opposition parties finalized Friday a joint bill that would provide redress to victims of forced sterilization decades ago under a now-defunct eugenics law, aiming to submit it to the Diet and put it into force in April.
The bill will offer an apology and a lump-sum payment of at least 3 million yen ($27,000) to each of the victims, even those without surgical records.
The eugenics protection law, which was in place from 1948 to 1996, authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders to prevent births of “inferior” offspring. Originally, it was a measure to control the population during a postwar food shortage.
About 25,000 people with disabilities were sterilized under the law, including some 16,500 who were operated on without their consent, according to the health ministry and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
The bill will have a preamble that reads: “We sincerely reflect on and deeply apologize for the great physical and mental suffering” that was inflicted, but it will not go as far as victims wanted, which was for there to be a clear mention of “the state.”
A series of damages suits have been filed against the state nationwide, but the government has claimed in court that forced sterilization was legal at the time under the law, demanding dismissal of compensation claims.
Under the envisioned bill, the compensation will be paid to victims, including those who agreed to undergo surgery, but not to their spouses.
As there are many cases in which victims do not have direct records of having been sterilized, the bill stipulates the launch of a committee composed of medical experts in the health ministry to certify their status.
The committee will examine indirect evidence, including circumstantial records of surgery, doctors’ opinions on post-operative scars, and testimony from the victims themselves and staff at facilities where they stayed.
In order that discrimination against persons with disabilities is never repeated, the bill will include a plan for the Diet to conduct a fact-finding survey on the background to the issues related to the eugenics protection law.