Japan’s Supreme Court orders compensation to victims of now-defunct eugenics law – LifeSite

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(LifeSiteNews) — On July 3, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that the government must compensate several individuals who were forcibly sterilized under the nation’s now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The Eugenic Protection Law, in place from 1948 to 1996, empowered Japanese authorities to forcibly sterilize people with disabilities, including those suffering from mental disorders, hereditary diseases or physical deformities, and leprosy. The law also permitted forced abortions if either parent suffered from a disability.

Last Wednesday, the nation’s highest court ruled that the 1948 law was unconstitutional and dismissed the government’s allegation that it should not pay compensation to victims due to the 20-year statute of limitations. It also ordered that the government pay 16.5 million yen (about $102,000) to the plaintiffs and 2.2 million yen ($13,000) to their spouses, the AP reported.

“The legislative intent of the former Eugenic Protection Law cannot be justified in light of the social conditions of the time,” said Judge Saburo Tokura when passing the judgment, as cited by public broadcaster NHK.

“The law imposes a grave sacrifice in the form of the loss of reproductive capacity, which is extremely contrary to the spirit of respect for individual dignity and personality, and violates Article 13 of the Constitution,” Tokura continued.

The court’s decree regarded 11 of the 39 plaintiffs who submitted their cases to five lower courts across the country before getting their case heard by the Supreme Court. The court has yet to rule on the cases of the remaining litigants.

According to the text of the now-scrapped law, it was implemented to “prevent the increase of the inferior descendants from the eugenic point of view.”

Consequently, around 25,000 people were sterilized without consent when the law was in effect, according to the court ruling which cited ministry data. While authorities allege that 8,500 people agreed to the procedures, lawyers retorted that these people were “de facto forced” into surgery due to the pressure they faced. Moreover, tactics such as physical restraint, anesthesia and even “deception” were permitted for sterilization procedures, as per a 1953 government notice.

Shockingly, a parliamentary report released in June 2023 found that some of the victims of the anti-life law were as young as nine years of age.

Eventually, the law was replaced by a 1996 amendment.

After the top court ruling, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he would meet the victims in person to apologize, reports said.

The plaintiffs, some of them in wheelchairs, held up banners saying “thank you” and “victory” outside the court after the decree. “I couldn’t be happier and I could have never done this alone,” said an 81-year-old plaintiff in Tokyo who chose to utilize the pseudonym Saburo Kita, in remarks cited by NBC News.

Kita testified that he was sterilized in 1957 when he lived in an orphanage. He added that he revealed his secret to his wife before her death, elaborating that he regretted their inability to have children due to his sterilization.

Likewise, Yumi Suzuki, who was born with cerebral palsy and forcibly sterilized when she was just 12, declared to the BBC in a 2021 interview:

When I found out I realized I could never be a mother… It broke my heart.

In 2023, Japan’s Kumamoto District Court ordered the government to pay damages totalling 22 million yen ($170,000) in compensation to two victims over their forced sterilization, Kyodo News reported.

Under a law passed in 2019 after one of the sterilization-linked lawsuits, surviving victims can each obtain 3.2 million yen ($19,800) in damages. Of the 1,300 applicants for this compensation scheme, reports say 1,100 have been successful in obtaining compensation.

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