Photo/Illutration The plaintiffs' attorneys and supporters head toward the Osaka High Court on Feb. 22. (Yuto Yoneda)

OSAKA--The Osaka High Court on Feb. 22 for the first time ordered the central government to compensate plaintiffs forcibly sterilized under a postwar eugenics policy.

Three plaintiffs residing in the Kinki region had sought compensation of a total of 55 million yen ($480,000) from the government for being sterilized without consent under the former Eugenic Protection Law.

The presiding judge overturned the lower court’s decision, which had dropped the compensation claim.

The higher court admitted for the first time among a series of such lawsuits that the state was liable for damages to the victims of sterilization.

The plaintiffs in this Osaka lawsuit are a woman in her 70s who has an intellectual disability, a man in his 80s and his wife in her 70s. The couple has hearing impairments.

The woman with the intellectual disability had Japanese encephalitis, and as an after-effect, she remained with some disabilities. Around 1965, she was sterilized without any explanation. The other woman has had a hearing disability since she was born. She was sterilized in 1974 without her consent.

The former eugenics law had remained on the books for nearly half a century, from 1948 to 1996.

There have been six rulings by district courts in similar lawsuits over the former law, but this is the first ruling by the higher court.

All eyes were on whether the higher court would apply the statute of limitations in the case.

All the previous district court decisions had rejected plaintiffs’ compensation claims on the grounds that their cases had passed the 20-year statute of limitations since their surgeries, thereby losing the right to seek compensation.

But four rulings had said that the former law violated the Constitution.

The Kobe District Court ruling even admitted that the Diet had neglected enacting corrective legislation.