US & Canada

Virginia eugenics victims compensated for sterilisation

Virginia operated a policy of eugenics for decades
Image caption The Virginia state legislature scrapped the Eugenical Sterilisation Act in 1979

Lawmakers in the US state of Virginia have agreed to pay compensation to people who were forcibly sterilised by the authorities decades ago.

Victims will be paid $25,000 (£16,000) following a legal fight by campaigners.

Along with more than 30 other US states, Virginia once operated a sterilisation programme for individuals deemed undesirable or mentally unsound.

More than 8,000 Virginians were operated on between the 1920s and 1970s.

The state's programme was said to be the model for the Nazi eugenics policies introduced by Adolf Hitler when he aspired to create a master race.

Several countries practised forced sterilisation during the 20th Century, including Sweden, Canada and Japan.

'They took my rights away'

In the US, about 65,000 Americans were sterilised in 33 states.

More than a fifth of those sterilised in Virginia were African Americans.

Two-thirds were women, many of whom went in for other procedures and were unaware of what was happening to them, reports the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan.

In 1927 the US Supreme Court upheld Virginia's Eugenical Sterilisation Act law. It remained in force until 1979.

The state issued an apology over the policy in 2001. Campaigners say there are only 11 known surviving victims of the programme.

The compensation deal was welcomed by 87-year-old victim Lewis Reynolds. "I couldn't have a family like everybody else does," he told the Associated Press news agency. "They took my rights away."

Virginia is the second state, after North Carolina, to approve a compensation package for victims who are still alive.

In 2013, North Carolina legislators agreed to pay $50,000 to surviving victims - thought to number about 1,800.

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