July 15, 2019
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Japanese government apologizes for discriminating against lepers for decades

 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) talks to journalists at the prime minister's official residence on a district court's order to the government to pay damages to plaintiffs of families of former Hansen's disease sufferers in Tokyo, Japan, July 9, 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/JIJI PRESS

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) talks to journalists at the prime minister's official residence on a district court's order to the government to pay damages to plaintiffs of families of former Hansen's disease sufferers in Tokyo, Japan, July 9, 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/JIJI PRESS

Tokyo, Jul 12 (efe-epa).- The prime minister of Japan on Friday apologized to leprosy patients and their families who suffered discrimination and isolation for decades in Japan, following a recent sentence compelling the state to compensate those affected.

Shinzo Abe, in a statement, offered his sincere apologies for the pain and suffering inflicted on leprosy patients and their families and admitted they suffered serious harm and discrimination for years in the country.

The statement comes after a Japanese court issued a ruling around the end of June ordering the state to pay compensation amounting to a total of 370 million yen ($3.4 million dollars) to 541 leprosy patients and their families.

The ruling, the first of its kind, established that the government had acted unlawfully in discriminating against and segregating lepers, keeping them in special sanitariums since 1960 although treatment was available for the disease.

Leprosy prevention measures were in force in Japan until 1996, under which it was difficult for their families to access public schools, find work, or marry.

The Japanese government has decided against appealing the verdict, and announced it will soon pay the required compensation, according to the statement.

In 2001, another Japanese court already declared the leprosy prevention law that was applied between 1907 and 1996 as unconstitutional, leading the Government to distribute compensation to former leprosy patients, but without taking into account their families who were affected by the discriminatory practices. EFE-EPA

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