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Osaka woman files suit over sterilization, 4th plaintiff with hearing impairment

After filing a lawsuit in the Osaka District Court, the plaintiff explains how she was sterilized without her knowledge in Japanese sign language, in Osaka's Kita Ward, on Jan. 30, 2019. (Mainichi/Maiko Umeda)

OSAKA -- A woman in her 70s with a hearing impairment who was sterilized under the defunct eugenic protection law filed a lawsuit with her husband against the government for 22 million yen in the district court here on Jan. 30.

At a press conference in this western Japanese city, the woman said in Japanese sign language, "Being made to undergo sterilization surgery due to a disability is discrimination."

According to her legal representatives, this is the fourth lawsuit surrounding the eugenic protection law (1948-1996) to be filed by a person with a hearing impairment.

The suit explains that both the woman and her husband, who also has a hearing impairment, were married in 1970. Three years later, she had their first child by cesarean section, but the baby died soon after. The woman ran a high fever and was hospitalized.

Following that, the couple kept trying to have a child, but she did not get pregnant. Feeling that something was not right, the woman went to consult with her mother. That is when she learned that she had been sterilized during her hospital stay following the death of her first child.

The woman argues that her right to make her own decisions and the reproductive rights of her and her husband protected by the Constitution were infringed upon. She also charges that the government and the Diet were negligent in failing to make redress after the law was revised in 1996.

The couple had been unaware of the eugenics law until recently. However, when they saw on the news that another couple with a hearing impairment had filed a lawsuit, they went and sat in on the proceedings of one of the hearings. That was when they decided to seek compensation as well.

At the press conference following the filing, the woman said, "I wanted to have children and raise two kids." Through tears, she continued, "It was a terrible shock to learn that I have undergone the surgery without any explanation."

(Japanese original by Fumie Togami, Osaka City News Department)

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