The government will give compensation to 22 people who underwent forced sterilization under a now-defunct eugenics law but do not have direct records of the surgery, in its first such approval, a committee said Monday.
An examination committee of eight medical experts set up by the health ministry acknowledged payment for the victims in six prefectures and Hokkaido at its first meeting, based on circumstantial evidence such as scars from operations and individual testimonies, the committee said.
About 25,000 people with disabilities were sterilized under the eugenics law including some 16,500 who were operated on without consent, according to the health ministry and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
The legislation for a legal remedy was passed in April under which individuals with sterilization surgery records will be given a lump-sum payment of 3.2 million yen ($29,600) each without having to undergo examination, if they apply through the prefecture. Payment to 26 people has been decided by the end of June.
However, only about 3,000 of the approximately 25,000 have records of the surgery.
The health ministry decided to set up the examination committee for victims who do not have the records. The committee members look into descriptions of the individuals and family, submitted documents, and medical exams, and look for operation scars to make their decisions.
"We will seek to make prompt, flexible and fair decisions based on each individual's experience," said Yoichi Kikuchi, head of the committee.
There have been a number of damages suits across the country concerning the issue.
In May, the Sendai District Court ruled the former law unconstitutional, even as it dismissed the plaintiff's damages claim.
From 1948 to 1996, Japan's eugenics law authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders to prevent births of "inferior" offspring.
The law was then revised and renamed the maternal protection law to remove the discriminatory clauses allowing forced sterilization.