May 31st 2019
SENDAI – Two women who underwent forced sterilization in Japan decades ago appealed Friday a district court ruling that denied a damages suit despite determining the country’s now-defunct eugenics protection law was unconstitutional.
The Sendai District Court found Tuesday that the 1948 law, which mandated the government to stop people with intellectual disabilities from having children, violated the Constitution’s guarantee of the right to pursue happiness.
But the court rejected the 71.5 million yen ($654,000) damages suit filed by the women in their 60s and 70s in Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, saying the 20-year statute of limitations had expired.
The ruling was the first in a number of suits filed with seven district courts in Japan.
Between 1948 and 1996, the eugenics law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness and hereditary disorders to prevent births of “inferior” offspring.
About 25,000 people with disabilities were sterilized under the eugenics protection law, including around 16,500 who were operated on without their consent, according to the health ministry and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
In April, Japan’s parliament enacted legislation to pay 3.2 million yen in state compensation to each person who underwent forced sterilization, irrespective of whether they were believed to have agreed to undergo surgery or not.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a statement expressing regret and an apology, but he did not mention the legal liability of the state.