SENDAI – The government may soon face more lawsuits over the forced sterilization of people with disabilities as a group of lawyers said Friday that preparations are under way following the first such lawsuit, which was filed by a Miyagi woman earlier this year.
The group, led by lawyer Koji Niisato. said three or four people in Tokyo and in Hokkaido and Miyagi prefectures are planning to sue around mid-May for their sterilizations under the now-defunct eugenics protection law. They said more could follow because they plan to create a group covering victims nationwide by early June.
Among the plaintiffs-to-be is a woman in her 70s from Miyagi who was sterilized without consent under the 1948 law at age 16 on the grounds that she had an intellectual disability.
She had initially given up on filing a lawsuit due to lack of surgery records but decided to do so anyway because the Miyagi Prefectural Government said in February it would recognize sterilizations even without records if there is other sufficient evidence to support such claims, Niisato said
The move comes after a woman in her 60s in Miyagi sued in January, seeking ¥11 million ($102,300) in damages from the government over her forced sterilization as a teen on the grounds of having mental disability.
She also claimed that the 1948 law denied human equality and the right to pursue happiness and was therefore unconstitutional.
The state has not apologized or provided compensation to the around 25,000 people sterilized over mental or other illnesses under the eugenics law, which remained in force until 1996, saying it was legal at the time. “We stood up so that we can realize a society without discrimination against people with disabilities,” the plaintiff’s sister-in-law, who helped prepare the suit, said at a news conference in January.
The Miyagi Prefectural Government announced Friday it has newly identified 70 more people who were sterilized in fiscal 1960 and 1961, bringing the prefectural total to 929.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers was launched last month to study relief measures for people who were sterilized under the law.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is scheduled to hold a nationwide survey of people subjected to the forced sterilizations, while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition ally Komeito are considering a plan to legislate relief steps.
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.”