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A Japanese court ruled Tuesday that the government must compensate three disabled people who underwent forced sterilization under the now-defunct eugenics protection law, the first ruling in which damages have been awarded to plaintiffs, the Japanese-based Kyodo reported.

The Osaka High Court said the government must pay a total of nearly $240,000 in damages to a couple and a woman in their 70s and 80s. The court also recognized that the controversial eugenics law was unconstitutional.

Between 1948 and 1996, the legislation authorized the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses or hereditary disorders to prevent the births of “inferior” offspring.

Government data showed that about 25,000 people with disabilities had undergone sterilization under the law, including 16,500 who had operations without their consent.

Lawmakers abolished the law in 1996 and more than two decades later enacted a bill authorizing $28,000 in compensation to those forcibly sterilized.

Many courts have reinforced the unconstitutionality of the abolished law but have rejected demands for compensation, saying the 20-year statute of limitations had expired.

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