In 1996, the Japanese government finally repealed its 1931 Leprosy Prevention Law. This law had required the segregation of some sufferers of the disease and resulted in the establishment of a system of national sanitaria that eventually housed more than ten thousand people. In the aftermath of the repeal, decades after effective treatments were available, a group of leprosarium residents sued the Japanese government for violating their civil rights. The lengthy trial that followed brought to light systematic abuses within the leprosaria, including sterilizations, forced abortions, coerced labor, and the harsh punishment of those who violated sanitarium rules. In 2001 the Kumamoto District Court, which heard the case, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the Japanese government to pay reparations. When Prime Minister Koizumi Junichirō announced that the government would not appeal this ruling, the leprosy case was celebrated as a...

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