A court in Japan has awarded damages for the first time to people who were forcibly sterilised under a now-defunct eugenics law designed to prevent the births of “inferior children”.
The Osaka high court overturned a lower court decision and ordered the government to pay a combined ¥27.5m (£175,600) to the three plaintiffs, who are in their 70s and 80s. It described the law, which was abolished in 1996, as “inhumane”.
Courts hearing similar cases have declared that the practice was unconstitutional, but rejected damages claims, saying the 20-year statute of limitations had expired.
A lower court had rejected the three plaintiffs’ demand for that reason in 2020 – a ruling the Osaka high court judge said “grossly violates the spirit of justice and fairness”.
Japan’s government apologised and awarded compensation to thousands of people in 2019, but the victims’ lawyers said the one-off offer of ¥3.2m did not reflect the suffering the victims had experienced. To date, the government has compensated fewer than 1,000 victims under the scheme, according to the Kyodo news agency.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Tamano Tsujikawa, said his clients – a married couple with hearing difficulties and a woman with an intellectual disability – had “moved mountains” by communicating their anguish to the judge.
“I am happy our claim was accepted,” the woman, who was forcibly sterilised in 1965, said after the verdict, according to public broadcaster NHK, which did not name her.
“But the sorrow of having to go through the operation is still with me even now,” she said.
Victims and their families welcomed the verdict. “This ruling stands by the victims,” the sister-in-law of a plaintiff in a separate suit in Sendai, north-east Japan, told Kyodo.
Saburo Kita, a representative of a group of victims and their families, told the news agency: “Our lives were completely destroyed. This is not about money. With this verdict, I want the government to bow in…