Japan court orders state to pay damages over man who was forcibly sterilized

A district court in western Japan has ordered the government to pay damages to a hearing impaired couple who said the husband was forcibly sterilized under the defunct Eugenic Protection Law. The judge said the law was a violation of the country's Constitution.

In the case before the Fukuoka District Court, the couple sought compensation from the government of around 44 million yen, or around 254,000 dollars.

The plaintiffs claimed that in 1967, about a week before their marriage, the husband was taken to hospital without being given any explanation and was forced to undergo sterilization.
He died in 2021 at age 83 while the lawsuit was still in the court. His wife and others have since taken over the lawsuit.

In Thursday's ruling, presiding judge Ueda Hiroyuki ruled that the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law, which took effect in 1948, violated the Japanese Constitution. It was abolished in 1996.

The judge said that based on the evidence of a scar that remained on the husband's body and other elements, the man had in fact received sterilization surgery.

The government said that because 20 years have passed since the surgery, the statute of limitations on the case has already expired under the Civil Code.

The judge dismissed the government's assertion, saying that applying the statute of limitations to the case would amount to a gross violation of justice and fairness.

He also said the government had committed an extremely serious violation of human rights in promoting its sterilization policy and had never corrected the policy.
The judge said that made it very difficult for the couple to access information needed to file a lawsuit.

The judge ordered the government to pay more than 16 million yen, or around 101,000 dollars, in compensation.

Victims of forced sterilization under the defunct law have filed lawsuits across Japan.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Japan held a hearing in which plaintiffs in five cases spoke about their experiences. It is expected to hand down a ruling this summer that will affect all pending forced-sterilization lawsuits.