Eugenics: How Women Were Forcibly Sterilized In Japan And Sweden

A life 2023

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Eugenics: How Women Were Forcibly Sterilized In Japan And Sweden
Eugenics: How Women Were Forcibly Sterilized In Japan And Sweden
Video: Eugenics: How Women Were Forcibly Sterilized In Japan And Sweden
Video: Forced Sterilization in Sweden?! 2023, February
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Dmitry Kurkin

Japanese parliament adopts compensation law for victims of forced sterilization, which from 1948 to 1996 were subjected to about twenty-five thousand residents. Thus, Japan finally recognized the shameful page of its history, which the country does not really like to talk about.

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Although the struggle to improve the human race is usually associated with odious totalitarian dictatorships and colonial racism, the ideas of eugenics that spread around the world after World War I found a response in many countries. So, in Sweden, from 1935 to 1976, at least sixty thousand women were forcibly sterilized. The basis for a forced operation could be not only the risk of transmission of serious hereditary diseases, but also ethnicity or social status (people from poor families, as well as sex workers, were often sterilized).

Sweden learned the truth about the eugenic struggle against people of the "lower class" only in 1997 after a journalistic investigation. One of the women who was sterilized at the age of seventeen described how she was called for surgery due to her “low educational prospects”: she could not afford to buy glasses and therefore did not see what was written on the blackboard. “I signed [the documents] because I understood that I needed to somehow get out of there … I was sent to the Bollnas hospital, and there they did everything. Dr. Ingvarsson told me: “You are not too smart, you cannot have children,” the woman recalled half a century later.

In Japan, where the theory of genetic selection was brought by the disciples of the botanist John Merle Coulter, they laid on the soil of imperial nationalism and an obsession with "pure blood" that had been ripening since the end of the 19th century. Then the idea of ​​the racial superiority of the Yamato, that is, the original Japanese, over ethnic minorities from the peripheral territories (Ryukyus, Oroks, Ainu and Nivkhs), as well as Koreans and Taiwanese, began to take shape in the country. Therefore, eugenics, as soon as it appeared in the country, easily merged with public campaigns in defense of purebred Yamato. In the mid-twenties, the journal of the eugenic movement began to be published in Japan, the Society for Health and Human Ecology was established in 1930, and in 1940, after several amendments, a national eugenic law was passed, according to which people with "inherited mental disorders" were subject to mandatory sterilization.

People wonder why it took the authorities more than twenty years to recognize the eugenic practices of the past as blatantly discriminatory

The defeat of Japan in World War II hurt Japanese nationalism (in August 1945, on the eve of the surrender, the government took the last desperate measure and ordered the establishment of something like a national network of brothels for soldiers of the Allied armies - all with the same purpose of preserving the "pure race "), But almost did not affect the popularity of eugenic ideas. Three years later, the previous law of 1940 was replaced with a new one. The Eugenic Protection Act was in effect for almost fifty years and was only repealed in the nineties. According to him, any woman could undergo a forced surgery if she, her partner or a relative up to the fourth degree of kinship (cousins ​​and cousins, as well as cousins) had serious genetic mutations. What is important, the consent of the woman herself was not required in this case - the decision of the officials was enough.

Commenting on the decision on compensation, Shinzo Abe, on behalf of the government, apologized deeply to everyone who underwent forced sterilization (whether the operation was carried out with the patient's consent or not, it does not matter - compensation to victims of the law is due in any case): “To prevent this situation from happening again, the government will do everything to create a society in which people will coexist, regardless of illness and disability. " However, not everyone was satisfied with the apology and compensation of 3.2 million yen.Some demand that those responsible for the adoption and implementation of the law be held accountable, while others ask why it took the authorities more than twenty years to recognize the eugenic practices of the past as openly discriminatory.

The answer to the question, perhaps, lies in the fact that Japan - like almost any country - is extremely difficult to talk about ethnic and social conflicts, many of which, despite the belief that time heals, still make themselves felt (such as, for example, discrimination against the Burakumin - villagers who, despite the abolition of the caste system in the nineteenth century, continue to be people who have been affected in their rights and opportunities). Eugenics once fueled these conflicts to a new, inhuman degree. But rejecting genetic screening alone - and making it a crime - does not solve them.

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