Japanese Court Compensates Forced Sterilization Victims in Landmark Ruling

A court in Japan has awarded damages for the first time to victims of forced sterilization under a now-defunct eugenics law designed to prevent the births of “inferior children.”

The Osaka high court ordered the government to pay a combined compensation of $235,214 to three plaintiffs, a couple in their 70s and a woman in her 80s, describing the abolished law as “inhumane.”

In 2019, the Japanese government apologized and awarded compensation to thousands of victims, but their lawyers said the one-off offer of $27,877 did not reflect the suffering the victims had experienced.

“I am happy our claim was accepted,” the woman, sterilized in 1965, said after the verdict. “But the sorrow of having to go through the operation is still with me even now,” she added.

“Our lives were completely destroyed. This is not about money. With this verdict, I want the government to bow in front of all of the victims and apologize,” Saburo Kita, a representative of a group of victims and their families said.

Between 1948 and 1996, about 16,500 people, mostly women with disabilities, were operated on without their consent under the law, which aimed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants … and to protect the life and health of the mother”.

According to media reports, about 8,000 other people gave their consent, while almost 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses.

The eugenics law was abolished in 1996.

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