• Kyodo

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A woman with impaired vision filed a lawsuit Friday against the government, demanding it pay ¥33 million ($278,000) in damages for forcing her to undergo sterilization under the now-defunct eugenics protection law.

“I want the state to apologize. I wanted to have a third child,” Chieko Muto, 71, of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, told reporters after filing the suit at the local branch of the Shizuoka District Court.

Muto has argued she endured significant mental distress and that the 1948 law was unconstitutional.

Soon after giving birth to her second child in 1977, a hospital told Muto that she might pass an eye disease onto a third child and forced her to undergo sterilization, according to the plaintiff.

Across Japan, 24 other plaintiffs have filed similar lawsuits against the government at eight district courts since the first such suit was filed in January 2018.

In the first ruling among the lawsuits, the Sendai District Court in May last year determined the law was unconstitutional but rejected the ¥71.5 million damages claim filed by two women in their 60s and 70s in Miyagi Prefecture.

In a separate lawsuit, the Tokyo District Court in June rejected a 77-year-old Tokyo man’s ¥30 million damages claim, deeming that the statute of limitations expired 20 years after his surgery in 1957. The court did not rule on whether the law was unconstitutional.

From 1948 to 1996, the eugenics law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders to prevent them from having “inferior” offspring.

The Diet enacted legislation in April last year to pay ¥3.2 million in state compensation to each person who underwent forced sterilization.

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