Hi Blog. Follow-up to the biased coverage by NHK two days ago on this issue of international divorces, we have the Japanese media once again quoting crank lawyer Ohnuki, depicting Japanese divorcees as refugees of violent NJ spouses. “Abductions”, of course, gets rendered in tentative “quotes”, and also you see how Japanese spouses have their cake and eat it too, with an example of the British legal system returning a child to the J side. Japan hasn’t signed the Hague Convention on Child Abductions yet, and why should it increase expectations of international cooperation by doing so?
I’ll say it:
The GOJ doesn’t want to cooperate with these international treaties because we have enough trouble getting Japanese to have babies. We don’t want to surrender them to NJ overseas. I have heard that theory off the record from an international lawyer quoting somebody in the ministries.
And I bet that even if Japan signs the Hague, it won’t enforce it (similar in the ways it will not enforce the CCPR or the CERD treaties). Why would the GOJ ever give more power over custody to NJ than it would its own citizens, who can already abduct and shut out one parent after divorce thanks in part to the koseki system? Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Tokyo in bind over treaty on child abduction
BY MIYUKI INOUE AND SATOSHI UKAI
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/7/16
Courtesy of Paul Wong
Broken international marriages involving Japanese in which one parent takes offspring overseas without the other’s consent are on the rise, putting the government in a bind about how to deal with such cases.
The question is whether Japan should be a party to an international treaty aimed at settling such parental “abduction” disputes across national borders.
Tokyo is under pressure–from within and from outside–to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980, which now has 81 parties.
The rise in cases involving Japanese parents as “abductors” has led to stepped-up calls from countries in North America and Europe for Tokyo’s accession.
Some divorced parents say their children would not have been taken overseas by their ex-spouses had Japan ratified the treaty; or it would have been much easier to have them returned.
Opponents, however, say Japan’s ratification would make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to flee with children.
There are also cultural and systematic factors to consider, given that under Japanese law only one parent is granted custody of offspring after a divorce.
The convention, which went into force in 1983, requires a child to be promptly returned to the country of their habitual residence.
It also requests contracting parties to take “all appropriate measures” to expedite the return of a child.
Senior officials and diplomats of the United States, Britain, France and Canada held a news conference in Tokyo in May to press Japan to join the treaty.
They said if children of broken marriages are taken to Japan, a non-party nation, there is “little realistic hope” of having them returned.
According to embassies here, there have been 73 child abductions by Japanese parents from the United States, 36 from Britain and 33 each from Canada and France. [NB: Time period not indicated.]
Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs who is visiting Japan from today, told a Senate committee in June that he would raise this issue in his first meeting with Japanese officials.
As it stands, the Foreign Ministry can only serve as “liaison” when it receives an inquiry from other countries.
The government has said it “is seriously considering” accession as it would help Japanese parents retrieve children from their ex-spouses.
A 40-year-old self-employed Japanese woman who faced difficulty regaining custody of her children said Japan should join. In 2007, her British husband went on a “trip” to Britain with the children, aged 5 and 9, and then told her they would never return. Communications were severed.
It took a month and a British lawyer’s services before she located the children at a school near London.
She finally got them back after a divorce mediation in Britain. She said lawyer fees alone cost 7 million yen to 8 million yen.
“Had Japan been a party to the treaty, their whereabouts would have been known right away,” she said. “It should have been much easier, too, to get them back.”
Another self-employed woman, 51, was cautious, however. She had long been a victim of domestic violence by her American husband.
The family moved from the United States to Chiba Prefecture in 1992, and she fled with two children to Tokyo in 1995.
She is now on an international wanted list on suspicion of abduction because the husband, saying the mother and children’s legal abode is in the United States, brought the matter before U.S. authorities.
The woman, who says “all I could do was flee,” thinks the treaty would make such escape difficult.
Lawyer Kensuke Ohnuki, who handles about 200 divorces among international matches a year, says most child “abductions” by Japanese women are a result of spousal violence.
The treaty does not take a parent’s reason for fleeing into consideration, he said.(IHT/Asahi: July 16,2009)