The Shinzo Abe government pledged on Wednesday to pay out 3.2 million yen ($28,600, €25,500) to every survivor of forced sterilization after years of rejecting compensation claims.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga offered "sincere remorse and heartfelt apology" following a parliamentary vote in favor of the redress measures.
Some 16,500 people were forcibly sterilized under Japan's Eugenics Protection Law. More than 8,000 others gave their consent, but likely faced pressure to do so. The law aimed to "prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants." It was first passed in 1948, and the last sterilization was performed in 1993.
The law authorized medical officials to perform forced sterilizations and abortions on people who suffered from genetic disorders, disabilities, mental illnesses, hearing impairments, or simply behavioral problems. Many of the victims had their reproductive organs surgically removed or were sterilized through radiation.
In 1996, the law was quietly altered and renamed as the Maternity Protection Law.
In recent years, survivors started seeking compensation before courts, but the government held to the view that the sterilizations were legal at the time.