Victims of eugenic law speak at Supreme Court hearing

People forced to undergo sterilization surgery under Japan's defunct Eugenic Protection Law spoke at a Supreme Court hearing Wednesday. The victims described their years of suffering.

The plaintiffs are demanding compensation from the Japanese government.

The law came into effect in 1948 to combat the post-World War Two population boom.

It allowed forced sterilization if someone had mental or intellectual disabilities.

At the time, there were fears disabilities could be passed down to their children.

The law was scrapped in 1996. Over 16,000 people are believed to have been sterilized without their consent.

Suzuki Yumi told the court she was sterilized when she was 12. She described her harsh experiences, saying she was not informed about what would be done to her before she was taken into the operating room and she remembers being terrified of the lights and the doctors.

Plaintiff Kita Saburo asked the Supreme Court to consider the victims' suffering. He said a ruling in their favor could help give them back their lives.

The first case went before the courts in 2018. The Supreme Court is currently deliberating five similar cases.

The argument hinges on the statute of limitations.

Under the Civil Code, plaintiffs have 20 years to seek compensation.

The pivotal issue is whether that statute should apply. The government argues it should be enforced.

Japanese high courts have ruled that the defunct law violated the Constitution.

In four of the five cases, the court ordered the government to pay compensation.

But another court dismissed a lawsuit, pointing out the statute of limitations had passed.

According to their lawyers, six of the 39 plaintiffs have already died.

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on all the forced sterilization cases in this summer.