JAPAN: Japanese activists have criticized a government report claiming thousands of individuals were forcibly sterilized under a eugenics law, which was not repealed until the 1990s.
The report revealed that around 16,500 individuals were operated on without their consent between 1948 and 1996, with women being the majority of victims. Another 8,000 people were also subjected to forced abortions due to inherited diseases.
The victims of the sterilization program have been fighting for compensation for their physical and mental suffering. Four courts have granted damages, but others argue that the 20-year statute of limitations has expired.
Lawyers argue that victims were informed of the procedure after it was too late to file a claim. Similar policies were in effect in Sweden and Germany, which have already apologized and paid out compensation.
Junko Iizuka, who was 16 when she was taken to a clinic in north-east Japan and forced to have a secret operation that, she subsequently learned, would prohibit her from ever having children, unsuccessfully petitioned for damages earlier this month.
A high court dismissed her claims, and she claimed the surgery had robbed her of her hopes for a successful marriage and offspring. She uses a hat and mask to hide her face and goes by a pseudonym.
She claimed her husband demanded a divorce after she disclosed her surgery. She lost her ability to work and developed post-traumatic stress disorder. The government apologized for the “tremendous pain” caused by forced sterilization, as top cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno issued an apology.
The report highlighted forced sterilization in welfare facilities under the now-defunct eugenics law, which allowed authorities to perform the procedure on people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses, or hereditary disorders to prevent “inferior” children.
However, lawyer Koji Niisato claimed the report left critical concerns unresolved, including the law’s creation, its 48-year amendment process, and the victims’ lack of compensation.
Iizuka, who will appeal her compensation verdict, claims she is still traumatized and experiencing physical and mental pain over 60 years after being sterilized without her will. She is getting older and has health issues, but she believes the harm done to her should not remain hidden.