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The Sendai District Court ruling on a damages suit filed by victims of forced sterilization under the old Eugenics Protection Law has determined that the law, which authorized sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses and hereditary disorders to stop them from giving birth to “inferior offspring,” was unconstitutional because it violated their rights to have children and pursue happiness. To ensure that similar policy mistakes are never repeated, the decision should be taken seriously, with the government and lawmakers identifying what happened under the law and who was responsible for the grave damage done to the victims.

The court, however, turned down the plaintiffs’ demand for state compensation for their suffering, on the grounds that the 20-year statute of limitations to seek redress for the forced sterilization — which took place more than 40 years ago — had been reached. It is regrettable that the victims of forced sterilization under the eugenics policy are denied judiciary relief after being left unattended for decades — and more than 20 years after the eugenics law was finally amended in 1996 to scrap its discriminatory provisions authorizing forced sterilization on the grounds of disabilities. The plaintiffs — the first to get a court decision among a series of similar lawsuits filed across the country — have said they will appeal the ruling, and rulings by other district courts will follow. The court battle on the issue will continue.

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