April 24th 2019
TOKYO — Japan’s parliament enacted legislation on Wednesday 24th April to pay 3.2 million yen ($28,600) state compensation to each person who underwent forced sterilization under a now-defunct 1948 eugenics law.
The new law, drafted by both ruling and opposition parties, offers an apology to victims but critics say its wording lacks clarity over where the responsibility lies.
To address such criticism, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to issue a statement, according to government sources.
Some victims are suing for larger compensation from the government in suits nationwide. A district court in Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, is scheduled to hand down a ruling in late May on the first of the damages suits filed over the eugenics law, which was effective until 1996.
The House of Councillors on Wednesday approved the bill following its passage through the House of Representatives on April 11.
From 1948 to 1996, Japan’s eugenics law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders to prevent births of “inferior” offspring.
The law was then revised and renamed the maternal protection law to remove the discriminatory clauses allowing forced sterilization.
The provision of lump-sum relief money marks a significant step forward for the victims, but some are critical of the time it took to take the step with more than two decades having passed since the practice ended.
The state redress law says “We, in our respective positions, sincerely reflect on and deeply apologize” for the great physical and mental suffering caused by the forced sterilization program.
Ruling and opposition party lawmakers who were involved in the drafting process say the “we” refers to both Diet members who passed the 1948 eugenics protection law and successive governments that enforced it.
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 compensation will be paid to victims, including those who agreed to undergo surgery.
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 for compensation.