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Court rules defunct eugenics law unconstitutional but denies damages

A Japanese court on Monday ruled unconstitutional the now-defunct eugenics protection law that mandated the government to stop people with disabilities from having children, in two separate damages suits filed by a couple and a woman in western Japan.
The Osaka District Court, however, rejected the plaintiffs' demand for the state to pay a combined total of 55 million yen in damages, in the third ruling in a series of similar lawsuits filed with nine district courts and their branches in Japan.
The ruling is the second that has deemed the obsolete law unconstitutional. None of the three rulings so far has ordered the government to pay any damages to plaintiffs.
The hearing-impaired couple from Osaka Prefecture --- a man in his 80s and his wife in her 70s -- filed a damages suit with the court in January last year, as she had undergone sterilization surgery in 1974 despite being told it was a C-section when she was nine months pregnant. Her baby died.
The 77-year-old woman, who suffers intellectual disabilities as an after-effect of disease, filed a damages suit in September 2018. She was sterilized after graduating from high school.
The Sendai District Court determined in May last year that the eugenics law was unconstitutional, but rejected the plaintiffs' demand for a combined total of 71.5 million yen in compensation.
In June, the Tokyo District Court also dismissed a 30 million yen damages suit filed by a 77-year-old man who was sterilized against his will. The court, this time, did not rule on whether the obsolete law was unconstitutional.
Between 1948 and 1996, the eugenics law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses or hereditary disorders to prevent births of "inferior" offspring.
About 25,000 people were sterilized under the eugenics protection law, including around 16,500 who were operated on without their consent, according to government data.
Japan's parliament enacted legislation in April last year to pay 3.2 million yen in state compensation to each person who underwent sterilization, irrespective of whether they were believed to have agreed to undergo surgery or not.


© KYODO
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