Gain forced sterilization victims’ understanding for damage relief bill [Yomiuri Editorial}
“Diet members from the ruling and opposition parties have jointly compiled a draft bill to provide relief to many with intellectual disabilities and others who underwent sterilization surgery under the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law.”
Relief should be provided swiftly and widely to victims of unreasonable sterilization operations.
Diet members from the ruling and opposition parties have jointly compiled a draft bill to provide relief to many with intellectual disabilities and others who underwent sterilization surgery under the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law.
The main relief measures in the draft bill include the provision of a one-off payment of ¥3.2 million to each victim, redress for victims regardless of whether they gave consent to the operations and flexibly recognizing them as victims even if there are no records of any surgery. A suprapartisan group of Diet members is expected to submit the bill to the Diet soon as lawmaker-initiated legislation, aiming for early passage of the bill into law and putting the law into force.
The victims’ ages are advancing. It is significant that the ruling and opposition party lawmakers cooperated with each other to quickly compile the relief measures in the form of a bill. Considering examples of past administrations actively promoting sterilization surgery and obtaining consent to the operations forcibly from parents and others, it is reasonable to widen the scope of those eligible for redress.
The amount of the one-off payment was decided by using as a reference the amount that the Swedish government had provided about 20 years ago in a similar damage relief plan.
The amount of compensation sought by victims and others from the state in lawsuits ranges from ¥11 million to ¥38.5 million. The plaintiffs claim that the government does not squarely face the gravity of the damage. Even if the relief law is enacted, they intend to continue the lawsuits.
From now on, a judicial ruling could be handed down that is different from the content of the relief law. If so, the court battle, such as that seen in the Minamata disease case, could be prolonged. The top priority should be for early damage relief for victims. The government and the Diet should continue their efforts so that they can obtain the victims’ understanding.
Examine past actions
The now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law came into effect in 1948 with the aim of preventing the birth of “inferior offspring.” It was only in 1996 that the law was replaced by the Maternal Protection Law as the former law constituted discrimination against people with disabilities.
The preamble of the draft bill states, “From the bottom of our hearts, in our respective capacities, we seriously reflect on and deeply apologize for” the great pains the victims suffered to their bodies and minds.
A discriminatory law had remained for such a long period, nearly 50 years, and the apology and compensation to the victims have been delayed even after the law’s revision. Thorough examinations are needed in order not to repeat the same mistakes.
The draft bill includes a stipulation that the central and local governments will swiftly make the redress system widely known to the public. On the other hand, notification of the system will not be made to individual victims, taking into consideration some victims who do not want their records of having undergone sterilization operations to be known to those around them.
The number of those who underwent sterilization surgery based on the defunct law, including those who gave consent to the operations, reached about 25,000. On the other hand, the surgical records that are available are for up to about 4,700 people.
There are some victims who are not aware of the damage done to them due to their disabilities. In one way or another, it is necessary to inform the redress system to at least those whose surgical records are available. It is hoped that any system will be examined with due consideration to privacy.