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In May, the Sendai District Court dismissed a suit against the government filed by two women who underwent forced sterilization under the now-defunct Eugenic Protections Law because the statute of limitations had expired. However, the judges said that the law, which allowed the government to prevent people with intellectual disabilities from reproducing, was unconstitutional. As a precedent, the ruling was significant because it recognized a woman’s constitutional right to self-determination regarding pregnancy and childbirth.

This aspect of the decision has since become a media topic of discussion about contraception. As pointed out in a Sept. 23 article in the Asahi Shimbun, Japan is behind the global curve when it comes to reproductive rights. It wasn’t until 1996 that the eugenics law was rescinded, and condoms remain the No. 1 birth control method in Japan, whereas in the rest of the world they are mainly a means of controlling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms’ use as a contraceptive is mostly dependent on a man’s initiative, thus downplaying a woman’s agency in her desire not to become pregnant.

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