Japan gov’t to pay damages to kin over leprosy isolation

Japan’s government says it will abide by a court ruling ordering it to compensate former leprosy patients’ families over a lengthy segregation policy that severed family ties and caused long-lasting prejudice.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday the government won’t appeal the Kumamoto District Court decision in June awarding compensation to 541 plaintiffs for financial and psychological suffering due to discrimination in education, jobs and marriage.

Abe said he found part of the ruling unacceptable but decided not to challenge it, saying the families’ suffering shouldn’t be prolonged. His announcement came ahead of national elections.

The court ordered the government to pay 370 million yen ($3.4 million) in damages to the 541 families. It said it failed to end segregation until 1996, decades after leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, became curable.

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