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160 local assemblies adopt resolutions seeking redress for sterilization victims: poll

TOKYO -- At least 160 local assemblies nationwide -- 134 municipal and 26 prefectural -- adopted resolutions indicating their opinions that prompt compensation is needed for victims of forced sterilization operations administered under the now-defunct eugenics protection law (1948-1996), a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.

The resolutions, addressed to the prime minister, health minister and the heads of both houses of the Diet, are not legally binding, but are nevertheless expected to pressure the central government and the national assembly to establish a program to support those people who were targeted for the surgeries because of their mental or physical disabilities.

The first such resolution was adopted by the prefectural assembly of Miyagi in northern Japan on March 16, shortly before the first oral proceeding in a damages suit against the national government filed by a local woman in her 60s who underwent the procedure. Similar actions by local assemblies have since spread across Japan.

Those resolutions unanimously seek the establishment of a compensation scheme for the victims by the state and an early settlement of the issue. The Miyagi Prefectural Government called for a "resolution based on political and administrative responsibility at the earliest date possible." The Tottori Prefectural Assembly in western Japan said those operations "infringe upon human dignity and cannot be overlooked." The Hyogo Prefectural Assembly, also in the western part of the country, sought "rapid relief" for the aging victims, saying countries such as Germany or Sweden offered redress to people who received similar surgeries.

The northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, which had the largest number of forced sterilization operations among all 47 prefectures at 2,593, also had the largest number of local assemblies passing such resolutions, at 30.

According to the secretariat to the House of Representatives, during a single Diet session there were 151 resolutions on nuclear weapons submitted by local assemblies to the national legislature in 2018 and 111 on hate speech in 2015.

Professor Yoshihiro Katayama of Waseda University, who specializes in local governance, expressed surprise at the fact that as many as 160 resolutions were passed in five months. Katsuya Hirose, a Hosei University professor well versed in the state's decision-making process, pointed out that those resolutions seeking redress for the victims have "substantial weight" because those local governments implemented the eugenics protection policy of the central government.

(Japanese original by Asako Kamihigashi, Lifestyle News Department)

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