History Of Japan's Hansen's Disease Policy

History of Japan's Hansen's disease policy

The Japanese government promoted the forced isolation of leprosy patients under a 1953 leprosy prevention law. Leprosy is also known as Hansen's disease.

Soon after, it became known that the disease was not particularly contagious and effective treatments had been established. But the government continued with the forced segregation until 1996, when the law was finally repealed.

That led many former patients to file lawsuits demanding compensation, arguing that the government's forced isolation was wrong and violated their human rights.

In May 2001, Kumamoto District Court sided with the patients and ordered the government to pay compensation.

The court ruled that the government continued to forcibly isolate patients even after it became unnecessary, thus encouraging discrimination and prejudice against them.

Later in 2001, the government and parliament admitted their responsibility for the continued isolation and apologized for the former patients' suffering. Parliament also passed legislation to compensate former patients.

But the government did not offer compensation to the families of leprosy patients, who argued that they had also suffered under the government's policy.

In 2016, 561 family members of leprosy patients filed a lawsuit with Kumamoto District Court seeking damages.

They argued that they had suffered discrimination and their family ties were destroyed because of the policy.

On June 28 this year, the court upheld the plaintiffs' argument and ordered the government to pay compensation worth about 3.5 million dollars.

It said the families suffered serious damage, such as the loss of opportunities to get married or find work.

It was the first time for a Japanese court to recognize the government's responsibility for the suffering inflicted on the families of leprosy patients.

Attention turned to whether or not the government would appeal the ruling.