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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 May 29 - June 4  > Court rules forced sterilization unconstitutional but dismisses victims' claim for damages
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2019 May 29 - June 4 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Court rules forced sterilization unconstitutional but dismisses victims' claim for damages

May 29, 2019
The Sendai District Court on May 28 dismissed a claim lodged by victims who had been sterilized without their consent while ruling that the old law which had forced persons with disabilities to undergo sterilization operations is unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs and their lawyers will likely appeal this decision to a higher court.

Two women in their 60s and 70s living in Miyagi Prefecture filed a compensation lawsuit against the state, claiming that the surgical sterilizations they had undergone under the former Eugenic Protection Act (1948-1996), whose purpose was "to prevent the birth of defective children", on the grounds of their intellectual deficiencies were unconstitutional.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that the surgeries they had were serious human rights violations depriving them of their reproductive rights, and that the former law infringed upon Article 13 of the Constitution which guarantees the "right to pursue happiness". They condemned the government for having long neglected to take a necessary legislative action.

The court acknowledged the old law was unconstitutional. It, however, denied that the government was at fault by claiming that the indispensability of a legislative measure was not obvious for the Diet at that time.

After the court ruling, Kita Saburo, a victim's family member, said, "I hoped this trial would set a good precedent."

Iizuka Junko, a plaintiff, said, "I cannot understand why the judge did not hold the government responsible while acknowledging the unconstitutionality of forced sterilization. Victims are getting old. I want the state to sincerely apologize to us as early as possible."

Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives Takahashi Chizuko issued a statement which read: The "unconstitutional" judgement is epoch-making as the government consistently dodged its responsibility by insisting that "it was legal at that time". However, in this trial, the same judge who clearly ruled the unconstitutionality of forced sterilization absolved the government from its responsibility for compensation, which is unreasonable.

Past related articles:
> Gov't will provide small one-off payment to forced sterilization victims [April 25, 2019]
> Issue of eugenics and disabled in modern Japanese society discussed in context of Nazi’s ‘T4 program’ [February 3, 2019]
> More than 100 deaf included among victims of forced eugenic sterilization [October 17, 2018]
> Forced sterilization victims sue gov't [May 18, 2018]
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