Three Japanese who were forcibly sterilized under a government policy decades ago have filed lawsuits demanding apology and compensation.

The two men and a woman are among at least 16,500 people who were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996.

The law, designed to "prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants," allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities.

The government has maintained the sterilizations were legal. A group of lawmakers are currently initiating possible relief measures.

The plaintiffs are seeking about 80 million yen ($730,000) in total. They filed their cases Thursday at district courts in Tokyo and the northern Japanese cities of Sendai and Sapporo.