Photo/IllutrationKikuo Kojima in a wheelchair and his lawyers enter Sapporo District Court on May 17 to file a lawsuit seeking compensation from the central government for forced sterilization procedures conducted decades ago. (Nobuhiro Shirai)

Three more individuals stepped forward on May 17 to file lawsuits against the state over their forced sterilizations decades ago.

The plaintiffs are following the lead of a woman in her 60s living in Miyagi Prefecture who became the first to file a lawsuit for compensation in January.

In total, about 16,000 individuals are believed to have undergone forced sterilization under the old Eugenic Protection Law aimed at "preventing the birth of inferior offspring." The policy was scrapped in 1996 when the law was revised and renamed the Maternal Health Law.

Kikuo Kojima, 76, of Sapporo became the first plaintiff to file and reveal his name in a forced sterilization lawsuit. The other two plaintiffs who filed suits were a 75-year-old man living in Tokyo and a woman in her 70s from Miyagi Prefecture.

The three are seeking a total of 79.5 million yen ($722,000) in compensation from the central government as well as an apology for not implementing any measures to provide help until now.

All three have asked their respective local governments to release information about the forced sterilizations. However, no documents have been found for Kojima and the 75-year-old Tokyo man.

The female plaintiff has been seeking some action for about two decades and documents have been found that purport to show the surgery was necessary in her case.

According to her lawsuit, she was working as a live-in servant when she was forced to undergo the sterilization procedure. She was aged 16 at the time, and was not informed what the surgery involved.

She later married, but ended up divorced because she was unable to bear children.

Kojima and the Tokyo man decided to file lawsuits after lawyers set up a phone consultation service for those who underwent forced sterilization.

Kojima said he decided to reveal his name to encourage other victims to come forward and follow suit.

The plaintiffs claim that the forced sterilization was a constitutional violation because it effectively denied them the right to determine whether to have children. They also claim the central government has the responsibility under the provisions of the State Redress Law to atone for its failure and provide support.

Moreover, Kojima and the Tokyo man claim the Eugenic Protection Law was interpreted too broadly in their cases.

Kojima said he underwent forced sterilization when he was 19 after he was labeled schizophrenic, even though no doctor examined him and made such a diagnosis.

The old law was ostensibly designed to cover individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities, but the Tokyo man claims he had no disability and was forced to undergo sterilization because he lived in a foster home.

His lawyers argue the law was broadly interpreted to prevent children being born from parents considered to be "ruffians."

(This article was compiled from reports by Seiko Sadakuni, Issei Yamamoto, Masanori Isobe, Eiji Shimura and Kazuki Nunota.)