Japan mulls compensation for sterilised ‘eugenic’ victims

TOKYO - Japanese lawmakers pledged Tuesday to study compensation measures for thousands of people, some as young as nine, who were forcibly sterilised under a new-defunct eugenics law.

Some 16,500 people were sterilised under the notorious law that remained in force until 1996, according to health ministry data.

The forced sterilisation "may have been accepted in the context of the days right after the war" but is clearly not permissible today, said Takeo Kawamura from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Kawamura vowed to carry out "thorough investigations into the issue" as part of a cross-party parliamentary investigation.

The issue hit the headlines earlier this year after a Japanese woman, now in her 60s, sued the government over a sterilisation operation carried out in 1972 when she was diagnosed with a mental disability.

Under the law people with mental disabilities were sterilised without their consent, after local authorities reviewed and approved each case.

The woman's lawyer, Koji Niisato, said Tuesday the government and parliament had failed to do anything to compensate the victim long after the eugenics law was abandoned in 1996.

At least three other people - a woman and two men - are planning to file similar lawsuits, according to their lawyers and a class-action suit is also in the offing.

Germany and Sweden had similar eugenics laws and governments there have apologised and paid compensation to the victims.

Under Japan's law, some leprosy patients were also forced into abortions because of policies that forbade them from having children. In 2005 a Japanese court for the first time ordered the state to pay damages to a former leprosy sufferer affected by the law.