Japan opens investigation into forced sterilisations
Thousands of people were forced to undergo sterilisation because of intellectual disabilities or mental illness under a law in force between 1948 and 1996. The first lawsuit for compensation will be heard on 28 March.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Japanese government is planning to carry out a nationwide survey into forced sterilisations ordered under a now-defunct eugenics law. The results of the survey could lay the groundwork for possible compensation for those affected.
The Eugenic Protection Act, in force between 1948 and 1996, authorised the sterilisation of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders in order to prevent the birth of "inferior" offspring.
For a long time, the authorities had been reluctant to open investigations on this thorny issue. But the call for a survey came from a cross-partisan group of lawmakers and the deputy governor of Hokkaido.
For their part, some of the victims have started to file claims for compensation. The first is a woman in her sixties from Miyagi prefecture.
She filed a suit on 30 January against the government, claiming that she was forcibly sterilised as a teenager. The trial is set to start on 28 March at the Sendai District Court.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, about 25,000 people underwent sterilisation on the basis of the old law, with about 16,500 of them forcibly subjected to the operation without their consent.
However, their identities have been difficult to confirm because very few documents remain listing their names. According to data compiled by Kyodo News, named records have been found for just 3,596 people across 27 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
The survey will require each prefecture to collect records from the authorities that performed the operations.