An elderly woman in Japan filed a case against the Japanese government on Tuesday for forcing her to undergo sterilization under the eugenics law when she was a teenager.
The suit, filed at the Sendai District Court, by unidentified woman from Miyagi Prefecture, is the first of its kind in Japan, according to Agence France-Presse.
She is seeking an apology and 11 million yen (US$101,000) in damages from the government for subjecting her under the now-scrapped law intended to reportedly prevent “inferior” offspring.
The woman, now in her 60s, claimed that the law enacted in 1948 was unconstitutional for it denied human equality and the right to pursue happiness.
She further noted that the government did not even provide relief measures after infringing the rights of the victims.
At a press conference, the plaintiff’s sister-in-law said, “We’ve had agonizing days … we stood up to make this society brighter.”
Under the eugenics protection law, the government authorized the sterilization of people with mental disabilities/ illness or hereditary disorders in an effort to prevent births of “inferior” offspring. The law, which also prescribed forcible abortions was scrapped only in 1996.
In Germany and Sweden, which had similar eugenics laws, the governments have apologized and paid compensation to the victims. Japan has yet to apologize or provide compensation to roughly 25,000 people who were sterilized due to mental or other illnesses. It has so far maintained that it was legal at the time.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women suggested to the Japanese government in 2016 to adopt “specific measures aimed at providing all victims of forced sterilizations with assistance to access legal remedies and provide them with compensation and rehabilitative services.”
According to the woman’s lawyer, the state should have provided relief to those affected. Based on court documents, the woman developed psychological problems after a cleft palate surgery in 1958 and was diagnosed with a mental disorder at age 15 in 1972.
Upon the recommendation of a local review panel, the woman was forced to undergo sterilization which resulted in eventual stomach pains. Her numerous suitors reportedly withdrew their marriage proposals after discovering she was unable to have children.