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Japan apologises to forcibly sterilised people

Published:Thursday | April 25, 2019 | 12:00 AM

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's government apologised yesterday to tens of thousands of people who were forcibly sterilised under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law which was designed to "prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants," and promised to pay them compensation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga offered "sincere remorse and a heartfelt apology" to the victims. It came after the parliament earlier Wednesday enacted legislation to provide redress, including 3.2 million yen (US$28,600) in compensation for each victim.

An estimated 25,000 people were sterilised without consent under the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law, which remained in place until 1996. The law allowed doctors to sterilise people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.

The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or were given radiation treatment to be sterilised, causing them tremendous mental and physical pain.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a statement, said the problem should never be repeated. "We will do all we can to achieve a society where no one is discriminated against, whether they have illnesses or handicaps, and live together while respecting each other's personality and individuality," he said.

The government had until recently maintained that the sterilisations were legal at the time.

The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who have come forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends.