Three Japanese who were forcibly sterilized under a government policy decades ago have filed lawsuits demanding an apology and compensation, in a growing movement seeking official redress.
The two men and a woman, all in their 70s, are among at least 16,500 people who were sterilized without consent under a 1948 Eugenics Protection Law that was in place until 1996.
The law, designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants,” allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities.
The three plaintiffs are seeking about 80 million yen ($922,000 Cdn) in total. They filed their cases Thursday at district courts in Tokyo and the northern cities of Sendai and Sapporo.
One of them, Kikuo Kojima, 76, from Sapporo, said he decided to speak out to let people know about the policy. He is seeking 11 million yen ($127,000 Cdn) in damages for the loss of his ability to have children and psychological pain from it.
“The same mistake should never be repeated,” he told reporters outside the court. “I want the government to acknowledge its responsibility.” He said he hopes other victims will join the action to seek an official apology and compensation from the government.
Kojima was forcibly sterilized in 1960 after being treated for a mental illness when he was 19. He had no choice, and was told by the hospital where he had the operation that “it would be a disaster if a person like you had children,” according to public broadcaster NHK.
A fourth person, a woman in her 60s, filed a similar suit earlier this year.
The government has maintained that the sterilizations were legal. But recent efforts by human rights groups and lawyers have uncovered evidence including medical records of the victims, prompting the health ministry to investigate for the first time.
A group of lawmakers is currently initiating possible relief measures.