Japan Apologizes to Sterilized Victims 04/24 06:42
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands
of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law,
which was designed to "prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants," and
promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering "sincere remorse
and heartfelt apology" to the victims. It came after the parliament earlier
Wednesday enacted legislation to provide redress measures, including 3.2
million yen ($28,600) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the
1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law allowed doctors
to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity
Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have
operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get
sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto said that as head of the
department in charge of the compensation, he will do utmost to provide the
one-time redress money for the entitled recipients, many of them aging and
handicapped, as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his statement issued hours later, said the
same problem should never be repeated. "We will do all we can to achieve a
society where no one is discriminated against, whether they have illnesses or
handicaps, and live together while respecting each other's personality and
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal
at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who
came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted
lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation
package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about 30 million yen each ($268,000) in growing
legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government's
implementation of the law violated the victims' right to self-determination,
reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are
too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were
sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000
women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses. However, the redress law
does not cover those who had to abort their pregnancy, according to Japan
Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in
isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also
abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to
them for its forced isolation policy.