TOKYO Ė Japanís Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized on Friday to leprosy patients and their families who suffered decades-long discrimination and isolation, following a recent court ruling compelling the state to compensate those affected.
In an official statement, Abe offered his sincere apologies for the pain and suffering inflicted on patients suffering from Hansenís disease (commonly known as leprosy) and their families and admitted they had undergone serious discrimination for years in the country.
The governmentís reaction came 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) 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 starting in 1960 although treatment was already available for the disease.
Leprosy prevention measures were in force in Japan until 1996. Under these rules, it was extremely difficult for patients and their relatives to access public schools, find employment, or marry.
The Japanese government has decided not to appeal 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 in force between 1907-1996 as unconstitutional, leading the government to distribute compensation to former leprosy patients, but without taking into account their relatives who were indirectly affected by the discriminatory practices.