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Court orders Japanese government to compensate people over forced sterilisations

BMJ 2024; 386 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q1498 (Published 05 July 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;386:q1498
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

Japan’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to compensate people who were forcibly sterilised under a “eugenic protection law” that was only repealed in 1996.

About 16 500 people were forcibly sterilised, some as young as 9, under the law which was passed in 1948 “to prevent the birth of defective offspring from a eugenic point of view,” according to its opening clause. Roughly 8500 more were sterilised after they or their parents gave consent that was obtained under intense pressure from the state. Some 70% were girls.

The Japanese Supreme Court heard testimony from 39 people affected by the policy after five lower courts differed on whether their cases had expired under the statute of limitations. It would be an injustice, the 15 judges ruled unanimously, to apply that statute to people who were harmed as children, and who typically concealed their involvement in the eugenics programme for decades afterwards because of intense social stigma.

The eugenics law, the …

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