Japan’s ruling parties have decided to provide relief measures to those affected by forced sterilizations under the now-defunct eugenics law, ahead of court rulings in a string of damages suits against the state, party sources said Thursday.
The decision reflects the parties’ consensus that there must be redress soon for the victims, who are advanced in age, without waiting for court decisions. In Japan, it usually takes several years for district courts to hand down rulings after lawsuits are filed, and the cases can be further prolonged if appealed.
The eugenics protection law was in place from 1948 to 1996, and was aimed at preventing births of “inferior offspring.” Under the law about 25,000 people were sterilized on grounds of intellectual or other disabilities, including some 16,500 who received the surgery without their consent, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
On Thursday, a married couple in Hokkaido and a man in Kumamoto Prefecture filed lawsuits at their respective district courts. Their cases bring the total number of plaintiffs in sterilization lawsuits against the government since January to seven.
A task force established by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, to examine the matter is set to start discussing specific compensation measures in July, the sources said.
The task force is considering submitting of a bill to the regular Diet session next year through accelerated coordination with a cross-party group of lawmakers who have also been working on relief measures.
Along with the accelerated efforts by politicians, the government appears to be seeking early conclusions of the lawsuits.
In 2001 the Kumamoto District Court ruled that the state’s isolation policy against leprosy patients was unconstitutional. While some in the government argued they should appeal the ruling, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a political decision not to do so and to pay compensation instead.”Regarding the issue of sterilization, we will basically proceed with discussions under the policy that they must be given redress, without waiting for judicial decisions,” a senior ruling party official said.
The task force has asked the health ministry to check records kept at local governments on individuals who underwent sterilization. At its next meeting in July, task force members are expected to discuss how to treat people, with regard to relief measures, who are believed to have received the surgeries but no records have been found.
There will also be discussion on whether to include some 8,500 people who consented to being sterilized, as the veracity of their consent has since been questioned.