April 17th 2019
TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to issue a statement offering a state apology to victims of forced sterilization under a now-defunct eugenics law after a redress bill clears parliament, government sources said Tuesday.
His statement and the bill’s expected enactment this month to provide 3.2 million yen ($28,600) in state redress to each victim are unlikely to settle compensation disputes, however, as victims are demanding much larger payments.
The compensation bill has been criticized by victims for its wording which does not clarify the government’s responsibility and only states that “we” apologize for causing victims’ physical and mental suffering.
Ruling and opposition party lawmakers who drafted the bill said the “we” refers to the former government and lawmakers who sat in the Diet in 1948 when the eugenics protection law was enacted. The law was effective until 1996.
The exact wording of the prime minister’s statement is still being formulated, but expressions similar to those in the compensation bill will likely be used, the sources said.
The bill, jointly submitted to the Diet by the ruling and opposition parties, cleared the lower house Thursday. The upper house has yet to approve it.
From 1948 to 1996, Japan’s eugenics protection law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders to prevent births of “inferior” offspring.
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.
In cases where victims do not have direct records of having been sterilized, a health ministry committee of medical experts will be set up to determine their eligibility.
A series of damages suits have been filed against the government across the country with the highest compensation demanded exceeding 35 million yen.