Three people in their 70s launched damages suits against the national government on May 17, claiming that forced eugenic sterilization surgeries they were subject to under the now-defunct eugenic protection law (1948-1996) infringed on their dignity that is guaranteed by the Constitution.
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A man living in Tokyo, a woman in Miyagi Prefecture and a man in Hokkaido filed their suits with the Tokyo, Sendai and Sapporo district courts, demanding 30 million yen, 38.5 million yen and 11 million yen, respectively, in compensation from the national government.
Their moves follow a state redress suit that a Miyagi Prefecture woman in her 60s filed with the Sendai District Court in late January this year. This is the first time that multiple people have simultaneously launched such suits.
The attorneys for the three plaintiffs will join hands with other lawyers across the country seeking relief for those who underwent forced eugenic sterilization operations in launching a nationwide legal team on May 27. Moves to hold the national government responsible for forced eugenic sterilization are gaining momentum.
The 76-year-old Hokkaido plaintiff has released his real name, Kikuo Kojima. The Miyagi woman and the Tokyo man go by their alias -- Junko Iizuka and Saburo Kita, respectively.
Prior to the launch of their lawsuits, the three demanded that the authorities of the prefectures where they live disclose the records of the eugenic surgeries they underwent. However, the prefectural governments have failed to find the records saying that the periods of preserving such documents have ended. Therefore, they claim that they underwent forced eugenic sterilization operations based on their memories, testimony provided by others and operative scars.
According to their suits, in 1957, Kita was taken by workers at a self-reliance support facility in Sendai where he lived at the time to a medical institution where he underwent an operation. At the time, he was a second-year junior high school student. A resident at the facility senior to him subsequently told him that the surgery was a sterilization operation.
Disabled people were subject to such forced operations under the old law. However, he was never diagnosed with any disability.
Iizuka claims she received a sterilization operation at a clinic when she was 16. Shortly afterwards, she learned from a conversation between her parents that it was a sterilization operation. She had initially abandoned suing the government due to a lack of records on the surgery she underwent, while continuing to appeal to the government about the damage she suffered.
However, the Miyagi Prefectural Government decided in February this year to recognize that she underwent forced eugenic sterilization surgery, based on her activities and other factors, prompting her to sue the central government.
Kojima was forcibly hospitalized at a psychiatric hospital in Sapporo sometime around 1960 when he was 19 after experiencing difficulties due to trouble with his family. At the institution, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia without going through an examination. He then underwent sterilization surgery without his consent.
He told this experience to his wife in February this year and then publicly identified himself by his real name.
The three plaintiffs claim that their rights to decide whether to have and rear children were violated, and that the executive and legislative branches of the government have failed to create a relief system for those who underwent such operations, causing them mental anguish.
A couple in Hokkaido had initially intended to join the three plaintiffs in suing the government. However, they will file a suit with the Sapporo District Court sometime in the future because they intend to demand state redress for not only sterilization surgery but also the forced abortion the couple claim the wife underwent.
(Japanese original by Akira Hattori, City News Department, Hiroshi Endo, Sendai Bureau, and Kotaro Adachi, Hokkaido News Department)