A court in northeastern Japan denied damages for two women who were given forced sterilizations 40 years ago under a eugenics law that aimed to prevent births of “poor-quality” children.
The plaintiffs, now in their 60s and 70s, argued that the now-defunct law had violated their human rights and sought a combined sum of 71.5 million yen ($653,000) from the government, the Japan Times reported.
The 1948 eugenics law, which was in effect until 1996, targeted some 25,000 people, mostly with disabilities, and forced sterilizations to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and “protect the life and health of the mother.”
Of this number, about 16,500 underwent the procedure without consent, while the rest agreed, most likely out of pressure.
On Tuesday, the court in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture ruled that the law violated Article 13 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to pursue happiness, including reproductive rights, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
However, it determined that the 20-year statute of limitations for compensation claims under the Japanese civil code had already expired.
As a result, both plaintiffs will not receive anything from the government. They can, however, appeal the verdict.
“Why should I suffer from an operation performed on me by the state?” the woman in her 70s questioned at a news conference. She underwent the procedure in 1963 after being discharged from a facility for the intellectually-disabled.
Last month, Japan compensated thousands of forced sterilization victims 3.2 million yen ($29,270) each and apologized for “the great physical and mental suffering” the program had caused. However, lawyers for the merged Sendai case argued that the one-off compensation was insufficient.
“The ruling is unacceptable,” lead lawyer Koji Niisato said. “We will build up more facts and win the lawsuit.”
According to The Mainichi, a total of 20 people have filed lawsuits in seven district courts across the country, all demanding compensation for the injustice they had suffered under the law. The Sendai case was the first ruling.
Unfortunately, the central government requested the dismissal of the cases. Aside from the statute of limitations, it pointed out the the separate State Redress Act, which gives the state and the Diet control over an individual’s right to demand compensation for illegal practices.
Images via YouTube / Kyodo News