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Sterilization victims to get 3.2 mil. yen in state redress each

In this May 17, 2018 photo, lawyers and supporters for a Tokyo man suing the government for compensation for forcible eugenic sterilization surgery enter the Tokyo District Court. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government is expected to pay 3.2 million yen ($28,700) in redress to every surviving victim of a state sterilization program that was conducted under a now-defunct 1948 eugenics law, ruling party lawmakers said Thursday.

The one-time payments, on par with similar compensation in Sweden, will be made to victims who underwent sterilization irrespective of consent, but the spouses of deceased victims will not be eligible for redress, according to a plan worked out by the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner the Komeito party.

The plan is likely to be submitted as a bill by the ruling and opposition parties in early April, with parliamentary passage expected by the end of the month.

The ruling parties have been considering the payment of compensation ahead of court rulings in a series of suits filed against the state since January.

But whether the redress will be welcomed by the victims remains uncertain as 3.2 million yen is far less than the compensation demanded by plaintiffs in the lawsuits, with the highest demand exceeding 35 million yen.

The former eugenics law, modeled on Nazi Germany's sterilization law, authorized surgery to sterilize people with learning difficulties, mental illnesses or genetic disorders to prevent the birth of "inferior" offspring during the postwar food shortage. It remained in force until 1996.

The LDP and Komeito set the amount of redress by looking at the examples of Germany and Sweden, which have apologized to and compensated the victims of their sterilization programs.

In Sweden, where a similar eugenics law was in force between 1935 and 1975, a law came into force in 1999 to pay 175,000 Swedish krona to each of the victims, now equivalent to around 3.12 million yen.

In Japan, about 25,000 people with disabilities were sterilized under the law, including around 16,500 who underwent surgery without their consent, according to the health ministry and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

Victims who do not possess records of their sterilization will be able to use evidence such as operative scars and the testimonies of people familiar with their situation to secure redress.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will set up a panel in the summer to certify the victims.

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