• Kyodo

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Osaka District Court ruled Monday that the now-defunct eugenics protection law, under which people with disabilities were stopped from having children, was unconstitutional, in two separate damages suits filed by a couple and a woman in western Japan.

But the court rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for the state to pay a combined total of ¥55 million ($530,000) in damages, in the third ruling in a series of similar lawsuits filed with nine district courts and their branches across the nation.

The ruling is the second that has deemed the obsolete law unconstitutional. None of the three rulings so far has ordered the government to pay any damages to plaintiffs.

The hearing-impaired couple from Osaka Prefecture — a man in his 80s and his wife in her 70s — filed a damages suit with the court in January last year. The woman had undergone sterilization surgery in 1974, when she was nine months pregnant, after being told the procedure was a Caesarian section. Her baby died.

The 77-year-old woman, who suffers intellectual disabilities as an after-effect of disease, filed a suit seeking damages in September 2018. She was sterilized after graduating from high school.

The Sendai District Court determined in May last year that the eugenics law was unconstitutional, but rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for a combined total of ¥71.5 million in compensation.

In June, the Tokyo District Court also dismissed a suit seeking ¥30 million in damages filed by a 77-year-old man who was sterilized against his will. On that occasion the court did not rule on whether the obsolete law was unconstitutional.

Between 1948 and 1996, the eugenics law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses or hereditary disorders to prevent births of offspring that were considered “inferior.”

About 25,000 people were sterilized under the eugenics protection law, including around 16,500 who were operated on without their consent, according to government data.

In April of last year, the Diet enacted legislation to pay ¥3.2 million in state compensation to each person who underwent sterilization, irrespective of whether they were believed to have agreed to undergo the surgery.

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