Fukushima finds records of sterilizations performed under eugenic law

Kyodo

The Fukushima prefectural government said Tuesday it has found a list of names of 120 people who underwent sterilization under the eugenic protection law that existed for decades until 1996, bringing the total number of such records identified to 2,845 across 21 prefectures.

Under the now-defunct law, 24,991 had their reproductive capacity removed due to mental or other diseases — including 16,475 without consent — according to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which cited government reports.

The Fukushima prefectural government had earlier told Kyodo News it held no such records but said Tuesday it had found the documents listing the names, ages and illnesses of 33 men and 87 women, of whom 68 were under 20 years old.

The documents included applications for surgeries and notices about the operations. All of the 120 are believed to have undergone sterilization without consent.

A woman in her 60s in Miyagi Prefecture sued the state last month in relation to procedures performed under the eugenic protection law, seeking ¥11 million ($101,000) in damages over her forced sterilization when she was a teenager on grounds of mental disability.

It was the first such suit over forced sterilizations in Japan. Filing the suit with the Sendai District Court, the plaintiff said the state failed to legislate for relief measures despite the serious human rights infringement.

The women also claimed the 1948 law denied human equality and the right to pursue happiness, and was therefore unconstitutional.

Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi has said the Hokkaido government holds similar data on 841 people who underwent sterilization surgery and that it will disclose the data by mid-February.

The central government has not apologized or provided compensation to the around 25,000 people, saying the procedures were legal at the time. The government says many records of forced sterilizations have been discarded by government offices.

In 2016, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended that Japan adopt “specific measures aimed at providing all victims of forced sterilizations with assistance to access legal remedies and provide them with compensation and rehabilitative services.”

The eugenics protection law authorized the sterilization of people with mental disabilities and illness or hereditary disorders, to prevent births of “inferior” offspring. It also allowed for forcible abortions.

The legislation, which paralleled a similar law in Nazi Germany, was scrapped in 1996 and replaced by the maternal protection law on abortions. Germany and Sweden had similar eugenics laws and the governments there have apologized and paid compensation to the victims.