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
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.
TEXT OF THE MOFA SURVEY
●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）
●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）
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)
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.