More people who were forcibly sterilized under the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law have begun raising their voices to call for government compensation for their suffering. Moves are afoot among lawmakers in both the ruling and opposition camps to provide relief for the law’s victims. Time is running short for such efforts, since many of the victims are aging and most of the official records of sterilization surgeries carried out under the law are believed to have been destroyed. Both the Diet and the government should quickly take action without waiting for court decisions on the cases.

Against the background of the rapid population increase and food shortages immediately after World War II, the Eugenic Protection Law was put into force in 1948, institutionalizing sterilization and abortion aimed at preventing births of what was deemed eugenically inferior offspring. The law provided that sterilization surgeries could be carried out on people who had mental disabilities or illnesses and hereditary diseases even without their and their relatives’ consent — if doctors determined that such a surgery was needed and a prefectural eugenic protection review panel approved. It was only as late as 1996 that the law was revised into the Maternal Protection Law by deleting the discriminatory clauses authorizing forced sterilization.

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