Under growing public pressure, Sweden promised Tuesday to fully investigate a four-decade policy under which 60,000 people deemed genetically inferior were involuntarily sterilized.
Social Minister Margot Wallstroem announced that the government soon would order an investigation, but did not say when that would happen or give any details, Sweden’s TT news agency said.
Wallstroem’s statement came hours after the country’s most influential opposition politician, Carl Bildt, demanded the government begin an independent investigation.
Swedes, long proud of their social welfare system, have been forced to acknowledge an unflattering chapter in their past since a newspaper series recently looked at the 1935-76 involuntary sterilization program.
Some have said robbing fellow citizens of the ability to have children reminds them of Nazi Germany’s brutal human engineering.
“Swedish society risks being injured if we do not make a serious, thorough and nonpartisan probe of this period in Swedish history,” Bildt, leader of the opposition conservatives, said in a letter to Prime Minister Goeran Persson.
The issue is particularly sensitive for Persson and his governing Social Democrats because the party backed the sterilization program. “There was no opposition (from the party) in this matter at the time,” Wallstroem said.
The articles in the respected newspaper Dagens Nyheter detailed Sweden’s policy of sterilizing people. Victims regarded as having undesirable racial characteristics, congenital handicaps or other “inferior” qualities were pressured by doctors or officials to consent to the procedure.