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News > World

Japan: Victims of Forced Sterilization Demand Compensation

  • The government program was implemented, in law, to prevent the birth of

    The government program was implemented, in law, to prevent the birth of "inferior descendants." | Photo: Reuters FILE

Published 9 May 2018
Opinion

Some victims included people who suffered from leprosy or Hansen's disease, mental illness or had behavioral problems.

Multiple people who were forced to undergo sterilization are accusing the Japanese Government of human right abuses and violations.

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The victims have either filed suits against or are demanding compensation from the Japanese Government for being included in the program. An official at the health ministry, who declined to address the suits, said: "It was an operation that was carried out according to a law that was in force at the time, so we are contesting it with the stance that it is not a matter for compensation.”

Seventy-five-year-old victim, Saburo Kita – who uses a pseudonym for anonymity – said: "There was no explanation, ever,” about a V-shaped scar on his lower body.

"I was left with a body that couldn't create children."

Kita only became aware of the program – which was mainly performed on individuals with physically or cognitively disabilities – in January.

"Right after the war, rebuilding the country and its people was paramount, so in the name of building better citizens for the nation, the law came into effect," Keiko Toshimitsu, a bioethics researcher, said.

"It was to build a better Japan – along, of course, with prejudice against the disabled. Then in the 1960s and 1970s, there was rapid economic growth so they needed people born who could keep the growth going."

Fourteen-year-old Kita was taken to an institution for medical attention when the operation was done without knowledge or consent. The procedure was revealed to be a part of a government program implemented, in law, to prevent the birth of "inferior descendants."

The law was later struck down in 1996.

Others – who suffered from leprosy or Hansen's disease, mental illness or had behavioral problems – were also included in the program.

Kita was sent to the institution for fighting at school.

Eugenics laws were dominant in Europe with laws famously imposed by Nazi Germany and Sweden sterilized 63,000 people under a 1935-1975 program, while 32 states in the United States embraced the practice at some point.

Japan's "Eugenics Protection Law" came into effect in 1948, with sterilizations peaking in the 1960s and 1970s. Approximately 25,000 people were sterilized, about 16,500 did not give consent.

"It seems there were zealous doctors who took the law up systematically, promoting it as a truly noble way to save the nation," Koji Niisato, a lawyer overseeing the lawsuits, said.

Methods including hysterectomies or high doses of radiation to reproductive organs.

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