Elderly Japanese woman sues government for forced sterilisation as a teen under now-defunct eugenics law

Japan has yet to apologise or provide compensation, maintaining that it was legal at that time.

By Kayla Wong | February 2, 2018

An elderly Japanese woman in her 60s has sued the government for ¥11 million (~S$131,800) over her forced sterilisation as a teen under a now-defunct eugenics law.

The suit, filed at the Sendai District Court on Jan 30, is the first of its kind in Japan, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Forced to go through the procedure when she was 15

The woman had developed psychological problems after a cleft palate survey in 1958, and was subsequently diagnosed with the mental disorder in 1972.

She was then forced to undergo sterilisation when she was 15, which resulted in eventual stomach pains.

Her numerous suitors had reportedly withdrew their marriage proposals after discovering she was unable to have children.

Her sister-in-law said at a press conference:

We’ve had agonising days… we stood up to make this society brighter.

Japan’s eugenics law only scrapped in 1996

According to Japan Times, around 25,000 people who were sterilized due to mental or other illnesses under Japan’s notorious eugenics law.

Of the total, 16,500 people are believed to have undergone the surgery without their consent.

Children as young as nine were forced to undergo the procedure.

Some leprosy patients were also forced into abortions because of policies that forbade them from having children.

This is due to the eugenics protection law, which was passed in an effort to prevent births of “inferior” offspring.

The law was scrapped only in 1996.

Other countries such as Germany and Sweden had similar eugenics laws too.

But the governments there have since apologised and paid compensation to the victims.

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 sterilisations with assistance to access legal remedies and provide them with compensation and rehabilitative services.”

So far, Japan has yet to apologise or provide compensation. The government has maintained that it was legal at that time.

Top image via Pixabay

About Kayla Wong

Kayla's dog runs her life.

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