Disability Forced Sterilization Japan

Japanese court rules defunct eugenics law unconstitutional but denies damages

Along with the Sendai and Osaka courts, the Sapporo district court also rejected the plaintiffs' demand for compensation, citing the statute of limitations that expired 20 years after the surgery.

From Kyodo via The Mainichi

January 15 2021

SAPPORO — A Japanese court on Friday ruled as unconstitutional the now-defunct eugenics protection law that mandated the government stop people with disabilities from having children, but it rejected a claim for damages sought by a man in northern Japan.

Kikuo Kojima, a 79-year-old from the city of Sapporo, is the first such plaintiff to have disclosed his name. He had filed a damages suit seeking 11 million yen ($100,000) for being sterilized against his will under the obsolete law, but the Sapporo District Court rejected his claim.

In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Takashi Hirose said there is no room to “justify” the law that infringed on a person’s decision regarding whether to bear or raise a child.

It was the third ruling to declare the obsolete law unconstitutional, following those of the Sendai District Court in May 2019 and the Osaka District Court in November.

Along with the Sendai and Osaka courts, the Sapporo district court also rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for compensation, citing the statute of limitations that expired 20 years after the surgery.

Friday’s ruling was the fourth in a series of similar lawsuits regarding the forced sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities filed with nine district courts and their branches across Japan.

“I will not give up until I win the case,” Kojima, who filed the lawsuit in 2018, said in a press conference after the ruling. His defense team plans to appeal the decision.

Kojima underwent surgery around 1960 when he was aged about 19 at a hospital in Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido after being suddenly taken away by police, according to the ruling and other sources.

He had argued that he was deprived of the right to decide to have children and that the government was lax in supporting the recovery of those subjected to surgery under the law.

Between 1948 and 1996, Japan’s eugenics law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses or hereditary disorders to prevent the birth of “inferior” offspring.

About 25,000 people with disabilities were sterilized under the law, including around 16,500 who were operated on without their consent, according to government data.

After neglecting the issue for years, Japan’s parliament enacted legislation in April 2019 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.

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