Unseen Japan

The Japan You Don't Learn About in Anime.

Japan's eugenics law remained on the books until 1996. Now, the victims are fighting back - and the country's government grapples for a formal response. (Picture: den-sen / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

Japan Considers Compensation for Forced Sterilization Under Eugenics Law

News   Posted on February 28, 2019 in children, human rights, health, society, equality • By Jay Andrew Allen • Read Related Articles

It's probably no surprise to learn that Japan had a eugenics law on its books at one point. After all, eugenics was a more or less worldwide movement, with a strong following in the United States. The US eugenics movement even served as the basis for Nazi Germany's extermination program.

In the US, around 80,000 women - particularly African-American and Native American women - were sterilized through the 1970s without their knowledge or content. While now banned as a general practice, forced sterilization still rears its ugly head in the states on occasion - such as in California, where 148 female inmates were forcibly sterilized between 2006 and 2010.

Officially, Japan's own Eugenic Protection Act (優生保護法; yuusei hogohou), which was explicitly modeled on Nazi law, stayed on its books until 1996. It might have been one thing had the law been one of those things - like marijuana or sodomy laws - that stayed on the books but were barely enforced. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It came out last year that, between 1963 and 1981, Miyagi Prefecture sterilized 859 mentally handicapped or mentally ill people - the majority (52%) of them children. The youngest victims were a 9 year old girl and a 10 year old boy. Eighty percent of those subjected to the procedure were deemed to have "genetic mental retardation".

(JP) Link: Questions on the Old Genetics Law; Even a 9 Year Old Girl Forcibly Sterilized in Miyagi - the Majority Were Minors

旧優生保護法:強制不妊手術9歳にも 宮城、未成年半数超 - 毎日新聞
「優生手術」と呼んで知的障害者や精神障害者らへの強制不妊手術を認めた旧優生保護法(1948~96年)の下、宮城県で63~81年度に手術を受けた記録が残る男女859人のうち、未成年者が半数超の52%を占めていたことが判明した。最年少は女児が9歳、男児が10歳で、多くの年度で11歳前後がいたことが確認

An investigation by Mainichi Shinbun, based partly on records kept by the old Ministry of Health and Welfare, found that there were 16,475 cases of forced sterilization country-wide. Some of the victims have begun suing for damages, and the increased awareness among the public that this law was actively enforced until its repeal has sparked a public outcry.

In response, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (自民党; jimintou) and a cross-party coalition have announced they are working on a plan to aid victims of Eugenics Protection Act. The initial proposal is based on a similar law from Sweden, and would reward the victims at least ¥3M (appr. USD $27K).

In an interesting development, the working team behind the proposal decided that an agency outside of Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will lead the investigation to determine who falls under the scope of the plan. Partially, this is because the predecessor to the agency was directly involved in supporting the former Eugenics Protection Act. However, Asahi Shinbun also surmises that the working team is worried that the Japanese public doesn't trust the Ministry, which is currently embroiled in a scandal around improper collection of wage data.

(JP) Link: A True Investigation of Forced Sterilization: Ruling Party, Cross-Party Coalition Specify Aid Bill

強制不妊の実態調査へ 与党と超党派、救済法案に明記:朝日新聞デジタル
旧優生保護法(1948~96年)の下で障害のある人らに不妊手術が行われた問題で、救済策を並行して検討している与党ワーキングチーム(WT)と超党派議員連盟プロジェクトチーム(PT)は27日、衆参両院の…

"It Didn't Concern Me"

As Japan comes to terms with its history of eugenics, some people are asking how this law remained on the books until 1996. In her newsletter from August 2018, former newscaster and sociologist Kawai Kaoru (河合薫) expressed her indignation that this law lingered for so long. But, as a newscaster for TV Asahi's News Station when the law was repealed, Kawai recalls having no memory that it even happened. And that, she says, is part of the problem:

もし、仮に報じられていたとしても、当時の私は「え! 今頃? ナチスドイツじゃあるまいし、遅過ぎる!」なんて気持ちにはならなかったと思うのです。

だって、批判を恐れずに告白すると、興味がなかった。

女性のための法律。出産に関係する法律。その大切な法律を女であり、30歳というこれから子どもを産むであろう年齢でありながら、「自分には関係ない」とどこかで思っていたのだと思います。

If it had been reported, I think that the me of the time would've certainly thought something like, "What? In this day and age? We're not German Nazis - enough's enough!"

But if I were to confess without fear of criticism...I wasn't interested.

A law concerning women. A law related to childbirth. While I was a woman in her 30s who was of child-rearing age, somewhere inside me regarding this important law, I think I thought, "That's no concern of mine."

(JP) Link: A 9-Year-Old Forcibly Sterilized. The Cruel Law That Once Existed in Japan

9歳の少女に強制不妊手術。かつて日本に実在した残酷な法律 - まぐまぐニュース!
知的障害者や精神障害者への強制不妊手術を法で認めた「旧優生保護法」という法律が、1996年まで半世紀以上も存在していたことをご存知でしょうか。ある訴えをきっかけに今、その問題が注目を集めています。メルマガ『デキる男は尻が…

The All-Japan Association of Defense Lawyers for Victims of the Eugenics Protection Act (全国優生保護法被害弁護団; zenkoku yuusei hogo higai bengodan) is calling for the government, not merely to compensate the victims of the Act, but to formally apologize, and to establish a strategy for raising public awareness so that history doesn't repeat itself. It's a noble call to action. Whether the working team carries through with it remains to be seen.

I'm the publisher of Unseen Japan. I hold an N1 Certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and am married to a wonderful woman from Tokyo.

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