FOCUS: Eugenics Could Happen Again in Japan, Expert Warns

Society

Tokyo, July 7 (Jiji Press)--How did Japanese society, which was supposed to have transformed into a democracy after World War II, justify discrimination against people with disabilities and openly endorse eugenics?

This is a key question that may come to people's mind in connection with a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court last week that finally declared the defunct eugenic protection law unconstitutional.

For nearly 50 years, the 1948 law facilitated forced sterilization surgeries for thousands of Japanese people with disabilities as a national policy. In a unanimous decision by the 15-justice bench, the top court held the Japanese government liable for compensating the victims and rejected the application of a 20-year statute of limitations on damages claims.

"At that time, (the government) believed it was acting with good intentions, not evil intentions," said Yasutaka Ichinokawa, a professor of sociology at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, who is familiar with the history of eugenics. "A similar thing can happen again," he warned.

According to Ichinokawa, before the war Japan already had a national eugenics law that paved the way for forced sterilization surgeries. Under the 1940 law, 538 people were sterilized until 1947, existing records show. Still, all surgeries were said to have been performed on a voluntary basis.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press