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Three more victims sue Japan government over forced sterilisation

© AFP / by Kyoko HASEGAWA | Lawyers and supporters of victims march in Tokyo as a movement seeking an apology and compensation for victims of Japan's now-defunct eugenics law gains momentum.

TOKYO (AFP) - 

Three people who were forcibly sterilised under a now-defunct eugenics law in Japan are suing the government Thursday as part of a movement seeking an apology and compensation for victims.

The suits, which are being filed in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan, come after the first such legal action by a victim earlier this year.

"I came out (to court) hoping that many other victims, who have been in agony for decades like myself, will raise their voices and join hands with us" in seeking justice, said a 75-year-old plaintiff filing suit in Tokyo.

"I want the government to admit the truth and I want my life back," he told reporters, using the pseudonym Saburo Kita.

Kita was sterilised as a teenager. When he married years later, he couldn't bring himself to tell his wife, only confiding in her shortly before her death in 2013.

He is seeking 30 million yen ($273,000) from the government, his lawyer Naoto Sekiya said.

"Not only did the parliament fail to take action (on relief measures), the administration also actively implemented a policy that was clearly a breach of the constitution even at the time," Sekiya told reporters.

Along with Kita, two other victims will file suit on Thursday -- one in the Sendai region and another in northern Hokkaido, lawyers said.

Japan's health ministry acknowledges that around 16,500 people were forcibly sterilised under a eugenics law in place between 1948 and 1996.

The law allowed doctors to sterilise people with heritable intellectual disabilities, to "prevent the generation of poor quality descendants".

Another 8,500 people were sterilised with their consent, according to authorities, though lawyers say even those cases were likely "de facto forced" because of the pressure individuals faced.

Japan's government has repeatedly resisted individual appeals from victims to apologise and offer compensation, saying the procedure was legal at the time.

In January, a woman in her sixties became the first person to file a lawsuit over the issue, seeking 11 million yen ($100,000) in compensation for her forced sterilisation as a 15-year-old.

In March, lawmakers pledged to consider compensation for those affected, with plans for a bill on the issue next year.

But victims and their supporters say the process is moving too slowly.

Germany and Sweden had similar eugenics laws and governments there have apologised and paid compensation to the victims.

Under Japan's eugenics law, some leprosy patients were also forced into abortions because of policies that forbade them from having children.

In 2005, a Japanese court for the first time ordered the state to pay damages to an individual with leprosy affected by the law.

by Kyoko HASEGAWA

© 2018 AFP