Japan enacts compensation bill on forced sterilization amid criticism

2019-04-24 09:49:58 GMT2019-04-24 17:49:58(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

TOKYO, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Japan's parliament enacted a bill on Wednesday to pay compensation to people who were forcibly sterilized under the nation's now-defunct eugenics law.

The new law has come under fire, however, for the reparations not being high enough and for the ambiguous wording of the government's apology not squarely admitting its culpability.

The bill, drafted by both the ruling and opposition parties, unanimously cleared the upper house and mandates that lump sums of 3.2 million yen (28,600 U.S. dollars) will be paid to each of the victims.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a written statement apologized on behalf of the government for the suffering caused to the victims and vowed that such a travesty would never be repeated.

"The government sincerely reflects on and deeply apologizes for the suffering caused by forced sterilization. To never repeat the situation, the government will make utmost efforts to realize a society in which people can coexist, regardless of disease or disability," Abe's statement said.

The highly controversial eugenics law, similar to Nazi Germany's sterilization law and enacted here in 1948 as a population control measure to deal with the nation's postwar food shortage, made it possible for the state to sterilize thousands of people without them giving their consent, due to mental disabilities and other illnesses.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, up until the contentious eugenics law was removed in 1996, of a total of 25,000 people who were sterilized, 16,500 of them were sterilized without them giving their prior consent.

Along with the amount of compensation being criticized as being low by lawyers involved in seeking damages for surviving victims across the nation, the victims themselves believe that the "deep apology" does not clearly refer the state's specific culpability.

The bill begins with an introduction that states: "We, in our reflective positions, sincerely reflect on and deeply apologize for the great physical and mental suffering that was inflicted."

Some of the victims and their legal representatives have pointed out that "we" and "our" as used in the bill's preamble is open to interpretation and does not necessarily refer to the government or the state.

A number of victims said Wednesday they will continue to fight their cases in court as they feel the government's new law is inadequate.

One lady in her 70s maintained her frustration at the government for it taking so long to address the issue and then not handle it correctly.

"The government hasn't dealt with it properly for the past 20 years, which makes me feel irate. I want the prime minister to apologize before my eyes," the women from Miyagi Prefecture was quoted as saying Wednesday.

Many of the victims have similarly maintained that the government merely "signaling" its involvement in forcibly sterilizing thousands of people diminishes the sincerity and credibility of its pseudo-apology.