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From the Countries: Aging Japanese; birth-control trains and sterilizations everywhere

Japanese to be world’s oldest

Japanese are “bracing” themselves for soon having the highest proportion of elderly in its population in the world. By 2050 thirty-three percent will be older than sixty-five, supplanting Sweden as the nation with the highest percentage of elderly.

Meanwhile, more than 16,500 handicapped Japanese women were involuntarily sterilized with government approval during the period from 1949 to 1995, government officials now have admitted. However, unlike other nations whose own sterilization agendas have recently come to light, Japan does not plan to apologize, offer compensation to the victims, or conduct an investigation.

Japan legalized sterilization in 1948 (while under American occupation) as a means of improving the race through control of hereditary factors. The law, which was revoked only last year, allowed doctors to sterilize people with mental or physical handicaps without their consent, after obtaining the approval of local governments.

(Sources: “Japan braces for life as world’s oldest nation,” Associated Press, 11 December and “Japan acknowledges sterilizing women,” The Washington Post, 18 September, A26.)

Australian sterilizations

Surgeons in Australia’s public health system have illegally sterilized more than 1,000 retarded women and girls since 1992, a government-commissioned report said.

The chief justice of Australia’s family court, Alastair Nicholson said, “The research points to an irresistible conclusion that doctors are performing unlawful sterilizations on girls and young women with disabilities.”

In 1992, Australia’s High Court made such sterilizations illegal if they were not medically required, unless a court or tribunal granted permission. Since then, such permission has been granted only 17 times, the report for the federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission said. However, at least 1,045 women and girls were sterilized during that period, the commission said. The government Health Ministry called the figure “overstated,” claiming that the true number of cases was only “one-fourth or one-fifth that.”

(Source: The Washington Post, 16 December, A22.)

Austrian sterilizations

The Austrian Ministry of Justice, following allegations by member of parliament Theresia Haidlmayr that thousands of women in mental institutions were being forcibly sterilized, promised on 28 August to curtail the rights of patents to authorize the sterilization of their handicapped children.

The judiciary’s action was also in response to rumors in medical circles that Ernst Berger of the Rosenhugel Psychiatric Hospital for the Young in Vienna, was preparing a paper which would examine the questionable due process involved in the forced sterilization of young handicapped children in Austria. Berger’s paper includes a case study of a 16-year-old mentally handicapped girl who was sterilized 4 years ago on the authority of her father, who was later found to have been sexually abusing her.

The administrative processing of such sterilizations, said Berger, “had a professionally unsound cynical character differing only superficially from the forced measures legitimized by the [Nazi] laws to prevent hereditarily ill future generations.”

(Source: The Lancet, 6 September, 723.)

Moscow birth-control trolley derailed

An attempt to take the message of “family planning” to the streets of Moscow by tram got off to a shaky start when angry grandmothers pelted the vehicle with rotten eggs, claiming the advice was “depraved.”

The tram was designed to bring information on contraception to teen-age girls who would otherwise not dare to enter a birth control clinic. The tram conductor was a doctor who handed out leaflets on Contraception and advice on avoiding AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In an attempt to make the tram more enticing, it was named “Desire” — a reference to the Tennessee Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

But Russian Orthodox women who stormed the tram at its first stop and painted the word “Fornication” on the front disrupted the trolley’s opening journey. One screamed: “Nobody — not the United States, or France, — can dictate how many Russian babies should be born.”

(Source: The Washington Times, 28 November, A2.)

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