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Tokyo court orders damage payment over eugenics law

A Japanese court has ordered the government to compensate a 78-year-old man who was forced to undergo sterilization in 1957 under the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Law.

The plaintiff, a Tokyo resident, says he had a forced sterilization around the age of 14.

He filed the suit under the name Kita Saburo. He demanded compensation from the government, saying that the forced sterilization was unconstitutional.

In a ruling on Friday, the Tokyo High Court ordered the government to pay 15 million yen, or about 130,000 dollars. It nullified a lower court ruling which did not judge on the constitutionality of the sterilization but said the plaintiff lost the right to seek compensation as he filed his suit more than 20 years after being sterilized.

The High Court's Presiding Judge Hirata Yutaka said the Eugenic Protection Law was unjust, based on a discriminatory ideology, and extremely inhumane and unconstitutional.

The judge said the government, which actively enforced sterilizations, remains liable for compensation.

Hirata pointed out that it would be cruel if the plaintiff lost the right to compensation before he was recognized as a victim of the state policy.

He said that the victims didn't only suffer from discrimination by the government over their illnesses and disabilities, but also from additional pain and suffering for losing the ability to reproduce.

The judge described their suffering as "multiple layers of mental and physical pain."

A law that went into force in April 2019 offers victims redress in the form of lump-sum payments. The judge ruled that the man has the right to seek compensation for five years from the date the law went into effect.

There have been several lawsuits in Japan pertaining to the Eugenic Protection Law. Friday's ruling is the second to order state compensation following one by the Osaka High Court in February.

The government had appealed the Osaka ruling, saying that it wanted to fulfill its responsibility through the lump-sum payments.

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