Japanese activists on Wednesday slammed a government report that says thousands of people were sterilized under a eugenic law in place before 1996, saying it failed to hold the procedures accountable.
The 1,400-page report, presented to parliament this week, details how some 16,500 people, some as young as nine, were sterilized without their consent under a law that came into force in 1948.
More than 8,500 people were sterilized with their consent, although activists have expressed doubts about how that consent would be given freely.
The law allows doctors to sterilize people with inherited intellectual disabilities to “prevent… offspring of poor quality.”
In 2019, lawmakers passed legislation providing 3.2 million yen ($22,800) in government compensation to each victim — an amount that activists say is insufficient given the damage done.
Lawmakers also commissioned the release of the report this week, but Koji Niisato, a lawyer representing victims of the policy, said it was flawed.
He told reporters on Wednesday that it was “very much a compilation of investigations and reports” that merely confirmed “this is a horrific law.”
But “it doesn’t summarize why this terrible law was enacted and stood for 48 years, nor does it address why the government is not held accountable even after the law is changed,” he said.
“It’s very regrettable.”
For decades, victims of sterilization programs have fought for recognition and compensation for the harm they suffered.
They have also sought relief from the courts, where the trio was awarded damages in a landmark victory last year.
The Osaka High Court overturned the lower court’s ruling and ordered the national government to pay the three elderly people a total of 27.5 million yen ($200,000) in compensation.
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But earlier this month, another high court rejected the plaintiff’s claim for damages, citing the 20-year statute of limitations.
Plaintiff Junko Iizuka, 77, told reporters the ruling “is a poor judgment that doesn’t consider why the victim cannot sue”.
“Since the government’s responsibility is clear, I’d like to see a quick resolution” that provides fuller compensation without the need for further litigation, she said.