Japanese Supreme Court rules in favour of forced sterilisation victims

On 3 July 2024, the Japanese Supreme Court found the no-longer existing Eugenic Protection Laws to be unconstitutional, and held that the Government must compensate the victims of forced sterilisation under this act. Five appeals were brought by victims across different Japanese cities, including Mr. Kita Saburo, who said “I want to fight to the end. I don’t want to die with the desire for the country to apologise.”


Japan’s Eugenic Protection Law was in place from 1948 to 1996, and enabled authorities to forcibly sterilise people with genetic physical or intellectual disabilities. The law also allowed the authorities to enforce abortion where one of the parents had such conditions. Under the Eugenic Protection Law, the aim of the legislation as per Article 1 was to ‘prevent the increase of the inferior descendants…’ Government reports cited in the judgment recorded that approximately 25,000 people had been sterilised, and 16,500 of these were non-consensual.


The Supreme Court held that the law was contrary to dignity and personality, violating Article 13 of their Constitution. While four of the appeals had been successful in the lower courts, one had been unsuccessful due to the 20-year Statute of Limitations that applied. The application of the statue was criticised by the Supreme Court, stating that it contradicted the ideas of justice and fairness. Judge Tokura noted the adverse impacts of the laws on personal rights and autonomy, stating,

“The law imposes a grave sacrifice in the form of the loss of reproductive capacity, which is extremely contrary to the spirit of respect for individual dignity and personality, and violates Article 13 of the Constitution.”


Although the National Diet of Japan brought out legislation for granting compensation and relief to the victims in 2019, offering a lump sum of 3.2 million Japanese yen, the victims and their advocates contested that this was not significant enough, and pursued further compensation in the courts.

Commenting on the reparations to be made, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida issued sincere apologies for the laws that “trampled on the human dignity” of the victims.


To read an article on the judgment, click here.



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