Japan minister meets plaintiffs in lawsuits over forced sterilization

Japan's children's policy minister has offered words of regret and apology to the plaintiffs of lawsuits over forced surgical sterilization conducted under the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law.

Kato Ayuko met the plaintiffs and others on Thursday, one day after the Supreme Court ruled that the law, which forced people with certain disabilities to undergo such procedures, was unconstitutional and ordered compensation.

People who attended the meeting say Kato offered words of sincere regret and deep apology on behalf of the government.

She also told them that the government intends to proceed with compensation procedures based on the ruling, as instructed by Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on Wednesday.

She also said the government will consider a new compensation scheme to resolve the issue, taking into account the pain the victims have endured and their advancing age.

The plaintiffs' side called for a law to be enacted to compensate all the victims.

Arrangements are underway for Prime Minister Kishida to meet with the plaintiffs by the end of this month.

One of the plaintiffs in Miyagi Prefecture said after meeting with Kato that there were things she wanted to say but failed to do so during the meeting.

She also said that as the issues of a full apology and compensation remain, she is hoping for an early resolution.

A sister-in-law of another plaintiff in Miyagi said her impression was that the minister just gave her a business card without saying much.

She added that government officials had said three times that the surgery was carried out after careful steps were taken. She expressed hope that the government will reflect on that and prevent a recurrence.

A plaintiff in Tokyo said the ruling by the Supreme Court gave a ray of hope but it was the halfway point for him.

He added that he thinks the government has yet to apologize to 25,000 people who underwent the surgery, and he is waiting to see how it will resolve the situation.