Citizens Sue Japanese Government Over Forced Sterilization

STEVEN E. WHITE

Women and men in Japan are suing their government for forcibly removing their ability to reproduce, under a eugenics law in the 1900s. Junko Iizuka, of North-east Japan, and a woman from Miyagi Prefecture, who chooses not to release her name, are both filing lawsuits against the central government over their forced sterilization. These sterilizations happened under the Eugenic Protection Law, which was passed in 1948 to try and preserve the Japanese race, and make it the ‘master-race.’

 

Junko states in an account, “I was given anaesthetic and I didn’t remember anything after that…. When I woke up, I was in a bed and I saw a sink. I wanted to have some water but I was told I wasn’t allowed to drink.” She had undergone forced surgery which tied her uterine tubes; one of 25,000 other people who also were sterilized, being deemed inferior. She continues, choking up, “I went to Tokyo to see if I could get the operation reversed but I was told it wouldn’t be possible. They stole my life away.” All this, because her mental health was deemed weak, and therefore she should not reproduce.

 

The second woman, from Miyagi Prefecture, filed her suit at the Sendai District Court, stating that the state neglected to legislate for her and others, despite the serious human rights violation. She continues in saying that the 1948 law which caused these unethical surgeries denied human equality, and stole away their right to pursue happiness, which was unconstitutional according to her.

 

A man from Hokkaido, in his 70s, plans to file a lawsuit, because of damages from the forced sterilization in his 20s. Documents, which surfaced in February, through investigation, show that even certain children, aged 15 and below, had to be sterilized under the law. The youngest child was 9. Around 25,000 people were sterilized from the time of 1948 to 1996, and 16,500 of those people undergone surgery without their consent.

 

Japanese lawmakers hold meetings, discussing what could be done, if anything, to possibly help those who’ve been affected by the old laws. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a LDP lawmaker states, “It surprises me that this law, which was originally drafted by lawmakers themselves, was passed by the Diet with unanimous support in 1948. We will think about what we can do by conducting a clear review of what happened.”

 

This law was enacted, being influenced by eugenics theories from the US and Germany in the late 19th century. The idea was to catch up the master race, and keep their “pureblood.” The government encouraged Japanese to only marry pure-blooded Japanese. Sterilizations focused on criminals, and people who were perceived to have genetic disorders such as the following: hemophilia, ichthyosis, colour-blindness, manic-depression, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

 

Women they deemed less respectable were forced to work in brothels, which were government-monitored; as to try and keep the Americans from mingling with their respectable, pure Japanese women. These women were subject to sexual violence common to the sex trade. An official apology was given to these women in 2007, issued by the Government.