Between 1948 and 1996, about 16,500 Japanese were forcibly sterilized to prevent them from having children with a genetic disorder. Children under the age of 9 were also victims of the so-called eugenics law, which was repealed only at the end of the 90s. The 1,400-page report, which was submitted to parliament this week, has angered many activists in Japan.
Eugenicism or the improvement of the race is the pursuit of better genetic formation of peoples. The Nazis in particular experimented with it. The law included “preventing descendants of poor quality from being born,” according to Japanese law. Most of the victims of forced sterilization were women.
In addition to the more than 16,000 who were forced, there were also 8,000 Japanese who were given permission, but this usually happened under extreme pressure. In addition, another 60,000 women have had abortions due to genetic diseases. According to the report, there were also two 9-year-olds – a boy and a girl – who were forcibly sterilized.
Victims have been fighting for decades to obtain financial compensation and recognition of the physical and psychological suffering they have endured. Similar practices occurred in Germany and Sweden, but there has been an apology and compensation for the victims. Moreover, the laws there were repealed decades earlier than in Japan.
The Japanese Eugenics Act allowed for the mandatory sterilization of people with an intellectual disability, mental illness, or genetic disease. The aim was to prevent the birth of “inferior” children. Sterilization was mandatory in order to be able to use certain public facilities, for example, or to allow them to marry.
So far, four courts have awarded damages to the victims, but other courts have sided with the Japanese government, arguing that the 20-year statute of limitations has expired. The lawyers argued that the victims learned too late about the nature of their process to meet the legal deadline for claiming damages.
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