National / Crime & Legal

Joint bill finalized to compensate those forcibly sterilized under Japan's defunct eugenics law

Kyodo

The ruling and opposition parties on Friday finalized a joint bill intended to provide redress to those subject to forced sterilization decades ago under a now-defunct eugenics law.

The parties aim to submit the bill to the Diet and put it into force in April.

The bill will offer an apology and a lump-sum payment of at least ¥3 million to each victim, including those without surgical records if their claims are verified by medical professionals.

The Eugenic Protection Law, which was in place between 1948 and 1996, authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders to prevent births of “inferior” offspring. Originally it was a measure to control the population during a postwar food shortage.

Under the law, about 25,000 people with disabilities were sterilized, including some 16,500 who were operated on without their consent, according to the health ministry and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

The bill will have a preamble that reads, “We sincerely reflect on and deeply apologize for the great physical and mental suffering” that was inflicted. But the wording is expected to fall short of what those affected had sought, which was for there to be a clear mention of “the state.”

A series of law suits seeking damages have been filed against the state nationwide, but the government has claimed in court that forced sterilization was legal at the time under the law and has demanded dismissal of compensation claims.

Under the envisioned bill, compensation will be paid to those subject to medical procedures under the law, including those who agreed to undergo surgery, but not to their spouses.

As there are many cases in which victims do not have direct records of having been sterilized, the bill stipulates the launch of a committee composed of medical experts in the health ministry to certify their status.

The committee will examine indirect evidence, including circumstantial records of surgery, doctors’ opinions on postoperative scars, and testimony from the individuals themselves and staff at facilities where they stayed.

In order that discrimination against persons with disabilities is never repeated, the bill will include a plan for the Diet to conduct a fact-finding survey on the background to the issues related to the eugenics law.

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