HI Blog. This issue is increasingly garnering attention. Good. Debito in haste in Tokyo, speaking at JALT in two hours.
Collapsed international marriages raise child abduction issue
(Mainichi Japan) October 25, 2008, Courtesy of MS
Japanese women from collapsed international marriages are increasingly bringing their children to Japan without confirming custody rights, creating diplomatic problems between Japan and other countries, it has emerged.
In one case three years ago, a Japanese woman’s marriage to a Swedish man collapsed and she brought their child to Japan. Later when she traveled to the United States by herself she was detained, as police in Sweden had put her on an international wanted list through Interpol for child abduction. She was sent to Sweden and put on trial.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction bans people from taking their children to their home country after a collapsed marriage without confirming issues such as custody and visitation rights of the country in which they are living. The convention has about 80 signatory countries, mainly in Europe and North America, but Japan is not one of them.
Among cases known to foreign governments, there are about 50 cases between Japan and the U.S. in which foreign husbands are requesting custody of children brought to Japan by Japanese women, and about 30 such cases between Japan and Canada. Similar cases exist between Japan and countries such as Britain, Australia and Italy.
In such cases, when foreign husbands file lawsuits in Japan seeking custody or visitation rights, their claims are rarely accepted, and the tough barriers put up by Japan in such cases have caused frustration.
In March this year, the Canadian Embassy in Japan held a symposium on the child abduction convention that was attended by Canadian and U.S. government officials. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also commented on the issue when he came to Japan during the July G8 summit. Some diplomatic officials have criticized Japan, saying that Japan, while criticizing North Korea’s abductions, it is carrying out abductions itself.
Among the Japanese women who have come back to Japan with their children, there are apparently some who have fled due to violence from their husbands. In other cases they have apparently concluded that they would not be able to win court custody lawsuits because they don’t know much about the other country and can’t speak the language well. There are also many who don’t realize that their actions constitute child abduction under the convention, and that they risk the same consequences as in the case in Sweden.
Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry figures show that the number of international marriages climbed from 27,700 in 2005 to 44,700 in 2006, about 1.6 times more. At the same time, divorces increased from 7,990 to 17,100 — more than doubling.
Considering that bringing children to Japan without confirming custody could constitute abduction, the Foreign Ministry has started to consider informing Japanese in international marriages through diplomatic establishments abroad. (By Megumi Nishikawa, Expert Senior Writer)
(Mainichi Japan) October 25, 2008