01/30/2018, 16.00
JAPAN
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Woman sues government, asks for compensation over forced sterilisation

This is the first suit against the state over its Eugene Protection Act. The authorities have not apologised nor provided relief for the 25,000 people involved in the sterilisation programme between 1948 and 1996. Records show that more than half of the victims were minors. The case could be the first of many.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A woman filed a lawsuit Tuesday at the Sendai District Court seeking ¥11 million (US$ 101,000) in damages from the Japanese government over her forced sterilisation when she was a teenager.

Now in her 60s, the woman in Miyagi Prefecture was sterilised under the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law on the basis of her intellectual disability.

The law, which was adopted in 1948, remained in force until 1996. Its purpose was to prevent the birth if unhealthy offspring.

A doctor would decide the need for surgery, which would be confirmed by a committee at the prefectural level.

In order to perform forced surgeries, the use of physical restraints, anaesthesia, deception and other methods were allowed.

This is the first time that the Japanese government has been sued because of forced sterilisations. The suit was filed by the woman’s sister-in-law, who has lived with her for the past 40 years.

Court documents show the woman developed mental problems following cleft palate surgery in 1958 and was diagnosed with an intellectual disorder at age 15 in 1972.

After undergoing sterilisation based on the decision of a local review panel, she suffered stomach pains. What is more, a number of marriage proposals were withdrawn once the suitors discovered she was unable to have children.

The case against the state argues that the latter failed to adopt relief measures despite the serious human rights infringement.

The authorities have not apologised nor provided compensation 25,000 or so people who were sterilised due to mental or other illnesses under the law. Of the total, 16,500 people are believed to have undergone the surgery without their consent.

Over half of those who underwent forced sterilisation were minors, this according to records provided by the Miyagi Prefecture.

Surviving documents from fiscal 1963 to 1981 indicate that of the 859 men and women sterilised under the law, 52 per cent of them were under the age of 20, with the youngest being two 9-year-old girls and a 10-year-old boy.

Lawyers for the woman said it was obvious that the state should provide relief to all the victims whom they encouraged to come forward.

The local bar association in Miyagi Prefecture has decided to open a call centre on the issue next Friday, whilst some lawyers in Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka will offer advice on the matter the same day.

For his part, Health minister Katsunobu Kato has declined to comment on the case, saying he has not received related legal documents. The ministry also said it is not planning to investigate what took place as a result of the law — another of the plaintiff’s demands.

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