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  • Kyodo: MOFA conducts online survey on parental child abductions and signing Hague Convention (in Japanese only)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 27th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just started asking for opinions from the public regarding Japan’s ascension to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (which provides guidelines for dealing with cases of children being taken across borders without the consent of both parents, as well as establishing custody and visitation; all past Debito.org articles on the issue here.).

    Sounds good until you consider the contexts.  We’ve already had a lot of Japanese media portraying the Japanese side of an international marriage as victims, fleeing an abusive NJ.  Even the odd crackpot lawyer gets airtime saying that signing the Hague will only empower the wrong side of the divorce (i.e. the allegedly violent and-by-the-way foreign side), justifying Japan keeping its status as a safe haven.  Even the Kyodo article below shies away from calling this activity “abduction” by adding “so-called” inverted quotes (good thing the Convention says it plainly).

    But now we have the MOFA officially asking for public opinions from the goldfish bowl.  Despite the issue being one of international marriage and abduction, the survey is in Japanese only.  Fine for those NJ who can read and comment in the language.  But it still gives an undeniable advantage to the GOJ basically hearing only the “Japanese side” of the divorce.  Let’s at least have it in English as well, shall we?

    Kyodo article below, along with the text of the survey in Japanese and unofficial English translation.  Is it just me, or do the questions feel just a tad leading, asking you to give reasons why Japan shouldn’t sign?  In any case, I find it hard to imagine an aggrieved J parent holding all the aces (not to mention the kids) saying, “Sure, sign the Hague, eliminate our safe haven and take away my power of custody and revenge.”  That’s why we need both sides of the story, with I don’t believe this survey is earnestly trying to get.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Japan conducts online survey on parental child abductions
    Kyodo News/Japan Today Wednesday 26th May, 06:29 AM JST

    http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-conducts-online-survey-on-parental-child-abductions

    TOKYO — Japan began Tuesday soliciting views via the Internet on the possibility of the country ratifying an international convention to deal with problems that arise when failed international marriages result in children wrongfully being taken to Japan by one parent.

    The online survey by the Foreign Ministry asks people who have been involved in the so-called parental ‘‘abductions’’ to Japan of children of failed marriages what they think about Japan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

    Complaints are growing over cases in which a Japanese parent, often a mother, brings a child to Japan without the consent of the foreign parent, or regardless of custody determination in other countries, and denies the other parent access to the child.

    The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of such ‘‘abducted’’ children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.

    Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has suggested that he is considering positively Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention and ratifying it during the next year’s ordinary Diet session.

    Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said at a regular news conference Tuesday that the government will examine opinions collected through the online survey in studying the possibility of joining the convention. The questionnaire will be posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry and its 121 diplomatic missions abroad, he said.

    At present, 82 countries are parties to the Hague Convention. Of the Group of Eight major powers, Japan and Russia have yet to ratify the treaty.
    ENDS

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    TEXT OF THE MOFA SURVEY

    Courtesy http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/event/files/ko_haag.doc

    「国際的な子の奪取の民事面に関する条約(ハーグ条約)」に関するアンケート

    【問1】 国境を越えた子供の移動に関する問題の当事者となり、以下のような経験をしたことはありますか。なお、回答に当たり、個人名などは挙げていただく必要はありません。

    ●国境を越える形で子供を連れ去られたり、やむなく子供と一緒に移動せざるを得なかったこと (その事情も含めて教えてください。) (回答)

    ●外国で裁判をして、裁判所の命令等により国境を越える移動に制限が加えられたこと (回答)

    ●差し支えなければ、以下の事項についても教えてください。 -子供の年齢: -父母の別: -子供に対する親権の有無: -関係ある国の名前:

    【問2】 ハーグ条約の存在やその内容をご存知でしたか。 (回答)

    【問3】 これまで我が国がハーグ条約を締結していないことについてどのようなご意見をお持ちですか。 (回答)

    【問4】 日本がハーグ条約を締結することになれば、ご自身又は類似の境遇に置かれている方々にどのような利益・不利益があると思いますか。 (回答)

    【問5】 その他ハーグ条約や国際的な子の連れ去り問題についてご意見があれば、お書きください。 (回答)

    お名前(       )

    ご連絡先(      )

    場合によって当方からさらに詳細についてお伺いするために連絡をとらせていただくことは,

    (1)差し支えない (2)希望しない

    ご協力に感謝申し上げます。

    //////////////////////////////////////////

    UNOFFICIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION

    SURVEY REGARDING THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION

    Question 1:  Have you ever had an experience like the ones below regarding the problem of children being moved across borders? You do not have to reveal anyone’s names in your answers:

    – There was a child abducted across an international border / you had no choice but to move with your children (please give details):
    — You had a court trial in a foreign country and your border movements were restricted by a court order. (Response space)

    — If convenient, please tell us about the following conditions:  Age of the child: — Whether you are the mother or the father — Whether you had custody of the children / The name of the relevant country (Response space)

    Question 2: Did you know the existence and the content of the Hague Convention? (Response space)
    Question 3: Do you have an opinion about Japan not becoming a party to the Hague Convention so far? (Response space)
    Question 4: If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention, you think there would be any advantages or disadvantages given to people in similar circumstances, or yourself? (Response space)
    Question 5: If you have any comments about the issues – child abduction and the Hague Convention and other international issues, please state them below: (Response space)

    Name

    Contact details

    There may be cases where we need to contact you to receive more details on your case.  Would contacting you be possible? (Yes/No)

    Thank you for your cooperation.

    ENDS

    17 Responses to “Kyodo: MOFA conducts online survey on parental child abductions and signing Hague Convention (in Japanese only)”

    1. Jerry Says:

      *shrug* even if Japan does sign the convention it does not have any mechanism for enforcement (and I don’t think it will in the foreseeable future). Can you imagine the backlash the first time an abducted child is forcibly repatriated live on TV?

    2. Graham Says:

      I just sent my response to the survey. I’m hoping they won’t throw the file into the recycle bin after finding out that I don’t belong to the demographic they’re looking for.

    3. Steve Says:

      Lovely, once again, the Japanese government is conducting another survey. Yeay! They care about us foreigners now, they really do.

      Previously, they conducted a survey asking, “Should foreigners have the same human rights protections as Japanese?”
      http://www.debito.org/japantimes102307.html

      It’s obvious to me that the people who write these surveys keep hoping that most Japanese people will answer, “No”, so that the Japanese government can say to the U.N., “Look, according to the results of this little survey, (which is as good as a national vote, right?) most people answered ‘No’ so: we don’t need to sign any fair treaties, and we don’t even need to adhere to the treaties that we already signed in which we promised to enact fair laws.”

      And even when the survey results are not what the writers had hoped for, oops, well, the Japanese government can still spin the results like this, “Well, 60% of the respondents may have surprisingly answered, ‘Yes’ but hey, c’mon, that’s not an OVERWHELMING majority right? If the surveys ever show 90% of the respondents saying, ‘Yes’, THEN, maybe, maybe we’ll think about… conducting some differently worded surveys. Yeah, that’s the answer.”

      For governments who don’t want to be fair, conducting opinion surveys is FAR safer than having a legally-binding national vote, because opinion surveys don’t legally bind the government to do anything.

      I think the Japanese government here is basically thinking, “Let’s merely conduct surveys, let’s definitely NOT put this to a national vote, pure democracy is NOT good for legislators, and even if we were to someday allow important issues like this to be decided by a national vote, let’s definitely NOT let tax-paying foreigners participate in the voting process (even though we make them foreigners pay citizen-tax upon threat of deportation, ha-ha-ha) because, you know, giving tax-paying foreigners the right to vote would produce ‘dangerous’ law results, right? Even though them foreigners are in the minority, they might team up with the Japanese-traitor-respondents who say ‘Yes’, and then suddenly Japan would be forced to enact fair laws, uh-oh, and then somehow enacting fair laws would lead to the destruction of Japan, or actually, to tell the truth, it would simply lead to fair-trade practices, which would lead to the richest of the Japanese presidents’ annual income being slightly decreased, and as legislators: we are paid to protect the elite, we are NOT paid to enact fair laws.”

      – Steve, try to stay focused when you levy criticism. It would strengthen your arguments.

    4. adamw Says:

      debito,

      of course this survey isnt trying to get both sides of the story-the wronged foreign party are overseas-so they will presumably not even know about this.and looking at the questions they seem only interested in cases when a japanese has been a victim.

      what does ‘ やむなく子供と一緒に移動せざるを得なかったこと’ mean?
      is this implying that its perfectly acceptable to abduct your children/break court orders if you feel like it?

      of course the problem of the same thing happening domestically all the time is not even up for discussion

      anyway i think people should bombard this site with examples of their cases..
      good luck

    5. Steve Says:

      Back to the original topic of this particular survey:

      Question number 4 asks, “If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention, you think there would be any advantages or disadvantages given to people in similar circumstances, or yourself?”

      Well, here’s an important question I hope one of Debito’s readers might have information about: “Thanks to the fact that other countries are ALREADY adhering to the Hague Convention, how many Japanese mothers (and Japanese fathers) have ALREADY been helped by the Hague Convention, meaning, how many Japanese mothers (and Japanese fathers) have received a Japanese court ruling, granting them custody, and then had their kids taken away to some non-Japanese country by the other parent who didn’t agree with that ruling, and then THANKS to the Hague Convention, the non-Japanese country returned the child to Japan? Have many of these GOOD FOR JAPANESE cases have already occured?”

      Seriously, if someone can find some good examples of Japanese mothers (and Japanese fathers) who already have BENEFITED from the Hague Convention, we should send these stories to the appropriate journalists so that THIS important side of the coin can begin getting the coverage it deserves.

      (By the way, I put Japanese fathers in paranthesis, since in Japan their chance of receiving custody is unfortunately very, very, slim.)

      My main point here is that currently this issue is being incorrectly painted in Japan as, “So, should we allow those Non-Japanese parents steal babies away from Japanese parents?”

      Since Japanese courts almost always give full custody to the Japanese parent (especially the mother), and since the Hague Convention simply says, “Countries will abide by the results of other countries’ court rulings” this means that statistically the Japanese parents will be (and probably already have been) helped by the Hague Convention.

      So again, we need to find and publicize examples of Japanese parents have already been helped by the Hague Convention.

    6. DR Says:

      Reminds me of the “Have you stopped beating your wife?” question. Folks either fail to get the nuance and cry “Yes!” or clam up totally. Same-same. Shame! Along with failing its international obligations to enact legislation to prevent discrimination, it’s hardly worthy of a country which aspires to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, now, is it?

    7. Daja Says:

      As they are not a signatory to it I don’t think Japanese parents can be helped by the Hague Convention, as seen in the recent case of the Czech father taking his son out of Japan leaving the Japanese mother with no legal recourse.

      http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/czech-man-takes-son-out-of-japan-in-suspected-child-abduction

      – But if the non-Japan country is a signatory, then it applies, and the child may be repatriated to Japan if the Japanese parent takes legal action within the signatory country, no?

    8. Daja Says:

      As far as I can tell a country can’t make an application to repatriate under the Hague Convention unless both are signatories, so Japan can’t make an application to the Czech government under the Hague Convention.

      The Convention shall apply to any child who was habitually resident in a Contracting State immediately before any breach of custody or access rights.
      http://hcch.e-vision.nl/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=24

      – Thanks for this.

    9. HO Says:

      Steve, the questionnaire is not limited to Japanese nationals. It is so worded as to accommodate both Japanese and foreign parents. So, you do not have to find “Japanese mothers who already have BENEFITED from the Hague Convention”, but any mother would suffice. Of course, you would not bitch about the fact that the questionnaire is only in Japanese since GoJ should not presume non-Japanese have poor Japanese skills.

      I think this is a very good opportunity to express opinions on the convention.

      Daja,
      CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION
      “Article 4. The Convention shall apply to any child who was habitually resident in a Contracting State immediately before any breach of custody or access rights.”
      So, if a child is removed from Japan, the convention shall not apply.

      – “Bitch”? HO, you’re not getting a little frustrated now are you at other people’s 屁理屈, are you? Perish the thought. Complete this sentence: “Karma’s a…”

      Again, I think the point is the authorities from a Hague signatory country sending a child back to Japan. The question raised is, does the Hague Convention benefit Japanese outside of Japan?

    10. Daja Says:

      Under the Hague Convention a child could not be sent back to Japan because Japan is not a signatory.The Convention makes clear that its provisions only apply to contracting states.
      A contracting state needs to set up some organization -a Central Authority- to deal with abduction issues-Japan does not have any such organization because it is not a signatory so it cannot make any appeals for the return of a child even if the other country is a signatory.

    11. yosomono Says:

      @ all

      Perhaps this will help people who’s child is abducted from Japan but they other way around is a whole other story. According to the Japan Children Rights Network abduction (by Japanese spouses) isn’t considered a crime:

      “In international parental abduction cases brought to court, Japan claims that parental abduction is not a crime. Courts up to the Supreme Court of Japan routinely refuse to return children to foreign parents with legal custody already ordered by foreign courts. Foreign courts in the country the children were living at the time the Japanese parent abducted them. Thus the Japanese government believes that its own citizens should be allowed to abduct children from other countries with impunity. Certainly, the result of the issues on this page mean that Japanese feel free to abduct their child and run back to Japan where they will be protected from legal challenges by the non-Japanese parent who has legal custody in a foreign country.”
      (http://www.crnjapan.net)

      So Japan can sign all the conventions it likes but as long as there isn’t a judge (like in the Bortz case) that acknowledges a ratified (and therefore binding) international treaty / convention has been violated, it remains little more than window-dressing for the international community.

    12. Steve Says:

      Hi HO :) Nice to see your view. I think that for Japanese people to have a balanced view of this issue we DO have to find Japanese mothers who already have BENEFITED from the Hague Convention.

      Yet, as Daja and yourself pointed out, it seems that we won’t be able to find such cases since it seems countries are only repatriating children back to countries who have signed the Hague Convention (I didn’t realize the convention is worded to limit itself to only helping countries who have signed it, so the deal is a 2 way street, fair enough.)

      By the way HO, seriously, we still are waiting for you to actually kindly post those “many laws in Japan that prohibit racial discrimination” which you mentioned a week ago http://www.debito.org/?p=6714#comment-195715 because within your kind post we might find a law, a usable law, than can help us towards our goal of creating more.

      Please consider accepting the heartfelt truce and sharing the laws which you have found here http://www.debito.org/?p=6714#comment-195765

      Show us your intentions are truly good HO, I’m rooting for you to be one of the good guys! :-)

    13. HO Says:

      Steve, you seem to always stray from the topic. I showed you 3 of them in the very post you linked. A law without criminal penalty is still a very powerful tool in civil litigation.

      – Yes, they’ve certainly gotten rid of all the “Japanese Only” signs nationwide in Japan and glass-ceiling working conditions for NJ in Japan thus far.

      Note to “Yosomono”, because he seems a bit thick: This is sarcasm. Now stop spamming the blog and me directly demanding clarifications.

    14. Steve Says:

      We know those 3, but you claimed there were “many”, so please post all the others which you know (back on that thread, not this one) thanks. :)

    15. AWK Says:

      Damn! Just sign it! Why in this country even government cannot decide for themselves. Survey won`t help, already with rooted xenophobia about foreign husbands = DV and criminals. Children are always assumed better off in Japan because foreign husbands are abusive, as there were no Japanese abuses here or even worse, killers.

    16. Joel Says:

      Speaking of a safe-haven:
      After reading comments, what seems that no-one has decided to cover is whether a Court order that was issued in a participating country giving custody to a Japanese parent, would have any impact on a Non-Japanese if she/he had returned to live in Japan with the child of the marriage.
      E.g. Could the Japanese government in the form of immigration authorities stop the child free entry or exit of the country. Because the parent wasn’t a Japanese national?

      Should the Japanese parent decide to follow the child back to Japan with a view to retrieve the child either in or out of court, it seems there are no processes in place to do so(from my interperetation of the above), but with the address of the non-Japanese on record, they could ‘technically’ that is to say it’s a physical possibility anyway, to appproach the foreign parent about the child.
      But would this have happened in the past?

    17. IGOTCHU Says:

      A child can be returned to a non-hague signatory state if the courts of the signatory state believe its in the best interest of the child. The issue is really up to the state where the court proceedings take place. The best interest of the child will weigh more heavily on the courts decision as opposed to whether or not the state where the child is presumed to be returned to is a signatore to the Hague.

      i.e.
      There has also been much confusion over questions concerning the propriety in applying Convention concepts in an analogous manner to these non-Convention cases. Although the recent decision by the U.K. House of Lords in June 2005^^ in Re J required that a “best interests of the child” standard be applied instead of Convention principles in all non-Hague cases, the issue of how to approach non-Convention cases still remains unresolved by U.S. courts.^^ This lack of international uniformity in handling non-Hague cases may lead to a growing gap among signatory courts that interpret and decide these cases, such that potential abductors may exploit the loopholes to their advantage.

      source:
      http://www.britannica.com/bps/additionalcontent/18/26458174/INTERNATIONAL-CHILD-ABDUCTIONS-INVOLVING-NON-HAGUE-CONVENTION-STATES-THE-NEED-FOR-A-UNIFORM-APPROACH

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