Osaka High Court rules in favour of compensation for victims of forced sterilisation
by Guido Alberto Casanova

Three plaintiffs sterilised in the 1960s and 1970s will receive about US$ 240,000. A law remained in force between 1948 and 1996 to prevent people with physical or cognitive disabilities from having children. A 2019 law limited the amount of compensation for victims.


Tokyo (AsiaNews) – For the first time, a Japanese court has recognised the right to adequate compensation for victims of Japan’s Eugenic Protection Law.

The Osaka High Court ordered the government to pay 27.5 million yen (about US0,000) to three people who had sued for compensation over their forced sterilisations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Between 1948 and 1996, Japan had a law designed to prevent people with physical or cognitive disabilities or mentally ill from having children.

Although few documents remain relating to the decision-making process behind these sterilisations, it is estimated that 25,000 people with disabilities were sterilised, including around 16,500 who were operated without their consent.

In some cases, the victims were young adults or teenagers, not fully cognizant of what was going to happen to them.

In April 2019, the government led by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a law that provided for the payment of 3.2 million yen (about US$ 28,000) in compensation for each victim of forced sterilisation.

Recognising the serious suffering caused, Prime Minister Abe issued a statement on that occasion saying, “As the government that carried out this law, after deep reflection, I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

However, the law has been the subject of strong criticism, starting with the amount of compensation, considered by many to be too low compared to the trauma caused.

In recent years, a few dozen victims have filed their case in court, asking for sums well above those required by law.

Until last week, court rulings have been disappointing however. None of the six rulings handed down since 2019 by district courts recognised the right of victims to compensation.

The reason given by the judges is that the statute of limitations had expired, even though most rulings acknowledged that forced sterilisation violated the victims’ human rights guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution.

The Osaka High Court turned the larger picture upside down. Recognising that in such cases, strict compliance with the law would “lead to a significant violation of the concepts of justice and fairness,” the presiding judge ordered the government to pay the three victims.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government will consider whether to appeal to the Supreme Court after examining the decision.

However, one of the plaintiffs asked the government not to appeal, as neither he nor his wife could see the final ruling given their advance age.

The Tokyo High Court is expected to rule on a similar case next month, but the Osaka ruling has already sparked hopes for many surviving victims and their families.

As reported by Kyodo News, less than a dozen cases are still pending but more than a thousand people have already been compensated by the government since the law came into effect in 2019.

As the wall of prejudice and judicial resistance is slowly falling, more people could come forward.