Two nine-year-olds were among the 25,000 people forcibly sterilised in Japan under its post-World War Two eugenics law, a parliament report has revealed.
The law, in place for 48 years, forced people to undergo operations to prevent them having children deemed “inferior”.
Many of them had physical or cognitive disabilities, or mental illness.
The law is widely recognised as a dark chapter in Japan’s post-war recovery and was repealed in 1996.
On Monday, parliament released a long-awaited 1,400-page study, based on a government investigation which began in June 2020.
It acknowledged that about 25,000 people had been subjected to operations – more than 16,000 of which were performed without consent.
Some people were told that they were undergoing routine procedures like appendix operations, the report disclosed. Local governments at the time had the power to arbitrarily assign the surgery.
The two nine-year-olds who were sterilised were a boy and a girl, the report said.
An 80-year-old victim, who was forced to have the surgery at 14, told local media the report was proof the government had deceived children.
“I would like the state not to shroud the issue in the darkness but take our sufferings seriously soon,” said the victim who wished to be known as Saburo Kita.
Critics of the report say it does not address why it took nearly 50 years for the law to be scrapped, nor explain the reason behind the creation of the law.
The report’s wider findings have drawn outrage on social media.
One Twitter user said it was sickening to find out that children as young as nine were sterilised.
Another criticised the government for being too slow to repeal the eugenics law, while expressing hope that Tokyo would also look at laws that limit the rights of women and LGBTQ persons.
Tokyo apologised in 2019 and agreed to pay each survivor 3.2 million yen ($28,600; £22,100).
Then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in the official apology that the eugenics law caused “great suffering” to its victims.
Other countries that have had forced sterilisation policies include Germany, Sweden, and the US. They have also apologised and paid reparations to surviving victims.