Saturday, 30 June 2018
Japanese eugenics program forced sterilization and abortion on tens of thousands
The Japanese government is facing a growing number of lawsuits from victims of its Nazism-inspired mass sterilization program that robbed tens of thousands of people of their reproductive capacities over a period of several decades.
An estimated 25,000 people were sterilized by Japan’s Eugenic Protection Law between 1948 and 1996, 16,500 of them involuntarily, according to government sources. Up to 60,000 forced abortions are also believed to have been carried out, all in the name of purifying Japan of hereditary diseases, particularly mental disorders perceived to be genetic in origin.
The law was implemented to continue a eugenics policy begun during Japan’s alliance with Nazi Germany, implemented through the 1940 National Eugenics Law, which itself was based on the Nazis’ 1933 “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Disease.”
However, as the Japanese-language Business Journal observed, the Nazi sterilization program was itself based on American eugenics policies implemented between 1907 and the late 1970s that led to an estimated 60,000 forced sterilizations in the United States, about a third of them in California.
The current string of lawsuits began in January when an unnamed woman filed the first suit against the Japanese government for forcibly sterilizing her in 1972 at age 15. The woman was sterilized because she began to suffer mental problems after an operation for a cleft palate. She was falsely diagnosed as having “hereditary feeble-mindedness.”
After national news media began to publicize the lawsuit, other purported victims began to sue the government. Now, at the request of Japanese media and the national government itself, local governments are seeking data on victims in hospitals to confirm the claims and to seek out unknown victims for possible compensation. A group of lawyers to aid victims in filing lawsuits has also formed and reportedly is receiving many inquiries. Government officials are beginning to discuss compensation plans regardless of the outcomes of lawsuits.
One of the victims who filed a lawsuit is Kikuo Kojima,76, a resident of Sapporo who was forcibly sterilized after being diagnosed with schizophrenia at 19.
“Why couldn’t I have a child with my beloved wife? I want this to be resolved as soon as possible so that it will never happen again,” Kojima said, according to the Japan Times.
Another forced sterilization victim in his 1970s, who spoke anonymously to the media, said, “I’ve been in agony about this for years,” and told reporters that he was unable to tell his wife about it until shortly before her death several years ago.
“I felt pain when I saw my wife cradling someone else’s baby,” said the man. “I’ve kept this burden in my heart for a long time. … I want my life back.”