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Lawyer group seeks gov't apology, redress for victims of former sterilization law

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations disclosed a written statement on Feb. 22 disputing the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Act, which permitted sterilization operations and abortions for those with disabilities and hereditary illnesses, requesting apologies and compensation from the government for those who were forced into the procedures and a full investigation of the damage.

    The Eugenic Protection Act declared that its goal was to "prevent the birth of imperfect descendants" and was passed in 1948. According to the federation, even the surviving records alone report that approximately 25,000 sterilization operations and about 60,000 abortions were performed. Under criticism of the infringement of the reproductive rights of the disabled, the law was amended. The current Maternal Health Act was passed in 1996 with the eugenics provisions removed.

    "Decisions concerning reproduction should be made freely based on the intentions of those involved," the statement declared. It went on to say that the sterilization operations and abortions performed on those with disabilities and hereditary diseases "trampled on their dignity and infringed on their individual reproductive rights, and are unconstitutional. The damage done was extremely severe." The statement concluded that considering the elderly age of the victims, the government should address the issue promptly.

    In March of 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended that the Japanese government conduct an investigation on the damage and offer compensation to those affected. However, the government responded with the stance that the law was "implemented legitimately and compensation would be difficult."

    The previous year, a woman in her 70s from Miyagi Prefecture, who claimed she had been forced without explanation to undergo sterilization surgery in her teens, brought her human rights case to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. "I think her filing the case made the federation make its move," her legal representative, lawyer Koji Niisato, stated. "I hope that compensation efforts for the victims will be discussed in the Diet."

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