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US state to compensate sterilisation victims

North Carolina sets aside a budget of $10m for people forced to be made sterile in mass government programme.

Last Modified: 26 Jul 2013 14:29
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North Carolina has set aside $10 million to compensate victims of the state's now-defunct programme which forced thousands of people to be sterilised.

Politicians included the budget in a spending plan passed on Wednesday which will make one-off payments to victims, but the final amount paid to each victim will depend on how many come forward.

North Carolina sterilised about 7,600 people whom the state deemed feeble-minded or otherwise undesirable from 1929 until 1974.

Some of the victims were as young as 10 and chosen because they were considered to be promiscuous or did not get along with their schoolmates.

Injustice done

Elaine Riddick, who was raped and became pregnant at age 13 and sterilised against her will after giving birth to her son, hailed the historic compensation package.

"People need to know that injustice was done towards them and they need to be compensated for that," Riddick told NBC News.

North Carolina Justice for Sterilisation Victims Foundation said that the NC Eugenics Board programme, rolled out across all 100 counties in North Carolina.

"In the late 1950s, a dramatic rise of sterilisations occurred amongst White women that did not reside in state institutions and African Americans," the foundation said in a written statement.

"Prior to the 1950s, many of the sterilisation orders primarily impacted persons residing in state institutions.

"North Carolina law during the eugenics period endorsed sterilisation of people who had epilepsy, sickness, 'feeblemindedness' and other disabilities."

The group estimated last year that up to 1,800 victims might still be alive. However, only 168 people had then come forward to have their identities verified against state records.

The foundation was established in 2010 to provide justice and achieve compensation for the victims.

Earlier push blocked

It functions as a clearinghouse to assist victims of the former NC Eugenics Board programme, rolled out across all 100 counties in North Carolina, according the group.

An earlier plan to set aside $10 million in the state budget for compensation was rejected by Senate Republicans last year.

Senator Austin Allran told the Associated Press news agency in 2012 to lay the issue to rest was one thing.

"But I’m not so sure it would lay the issue at rest because if you start compensating people who have been ‘victimised’ by past history," he said.

"I don’t know where that would end."

Senator Don East told the Raleigh-based News and Observer at the time that he was sorry that the programme had took place.

But he said: "I just don't think money fixes it."

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