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Hi Blog. Related to Japan’s future signing of the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, here we have an official report about a public forum held on November 22, 2011 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (something I attended before and incidentally considered a very flawed and biased format). Present were academics, lawyers, the Ministries of Justice, Health and Welfare, Education, Internal Affairs, plus the Cabinet and the National Police Agency.
In the course of discussions about setting up a central agency to handle the enforcement of the Hague, 168 public comments were collected since the end of September and were brought up at this meeting. That report follows in full below, courtesy of TS. A few things I found noteworthy within it:
1) The term LBP (Left-Behind Parent) is now part of the Japanese lexicon.
2) In discussions about the right of both parents to have information about (if not access to) their children, the same old saws about DV (domestic violence, however unclearly defined, and in Japan that matters) came up, and the GOJ is as usual being called in to do something about it (apparently more than just mediate, which the GOJ gets all control-freaky and nanny-state about) — seesawing between the LBP’s right to know about their children and the custodian’s right to be safe from the violent boogeyman ex-spouse. This seesawing was also visible in an even more vague discussion about the GOJ holding onto passports of potential abductors and abductees, except under exceptional circumstances that were mentioned but left undeveloped.
3) The GOJ, regarding contact between LBP and child, plans to “support the respect of visitation rights”, but it also leaves measures vague and expresses caution about doing much of anything, really.
All told, this level of discussion was pretty low. I found little concrete here to sink one’s teeth into regarding advising toward future policies guaranteeing the lynchpins to this discussion: joint custody and guaranteed visitation that goes beyond an hour a two a month. Not to mention return of internationally abducted children to their habitual residence as per the Hague. Others are welcome to read the text below and squeeze out whatever interpretations I may have missed. But given how much duplicity has taken place regarding the rights of LBPs in Japan up until now, I sadly remain unhopeful. Arudou Debito
7 comments on “MOFA offers public comments on signing Hague Convention on Child Abductions; not much there”
In my opinion, it is all just tatemae. Until foreign governments say “enough is enough”, and stop turning a blind eye to Japan’s abuses, nothing of substance is likely to change.
It will take many many high profile embarrassing Inoue Emiko incidents with clear fault on the Japanese side to finally get things rolling in this country. International loss of face is the ONLY way to get the ball rolling. Perhaps a TV personality in addition to a prominent politician or royal family member will wake up the policy makers to the reality of this situation. This scenario is applicable to any and all situations that need changing in this country.
無名 is right, I think. Only a sense of international outrage, the idea that abductors are disgracing Japan, will provoke change. I am waiting for the official line to become ‘ don’t marry a foreigner ‘ as a way of sparing Japan the embarrassment ( a neat, and very Japanese solution, since it avoids admitting that Team Japan is in the wrong).
As an unrelated aside (sorry Debito), the JGov love to give stats about the number of foreigners in Japan, but I can’t find any stats about the number of Japanese that leave Japan. Any ideas?
The only thing more Emikos will create in Japan is an increasing sense of self-righteous victimhood, e.g., “How dare those wife-beating barbarians lock up our good, decent Japanese mothers who are only trying to protect their poor children!”
Still, I am of course happy for the father in this case and I am interested to see what happens next at the policy level in Japan.
(Note that I am different 無名 than #2.)
Jim Di Griz,
> I am waiting for the official line to become ‘ don’t marry a foreigner ‘ as a way of sparing Japan the embarrassment
Japan has spun the Hague Convention as a J vs. NJ issue.
While so-called “international marriage” is surely the largest group, I think that the Hague Convention could be equally applicable to Japanese families as well.
For example, imagine a married Japanese couple moves to the US for work. (In modern society, this is not so rare.)
They eventually start a family.
There is marital trouble and one of them decides to move back to Japan with their child.
The child at this time would have habitually resided in the US at the time of his/her removal.
If Japan had signed the convention, the left-behind parent–regardless of being Japanese–should be able to have the child returned to the habitual residence: US.
Other similar scenarios are equally plausible, but equally relevant to Japanese as well.
I agree with the people above. No matter what they discuss, it’s quite unrealistic to expect this country to establish a comprehensive legal framework and system on international child custody and prevention of child abduction. After reviewing the documents attached above, I saw none of them are able to craft their visions and attitudes toward the representatives (NJ as well as Japanese) into their language. The terms the authorities describe in these documents are—as you expect—vague (意見,取り計らう), unclear (裁量, DV,接触の権利[huh?]), confusing (行方不明者,効果的に尊重する [I don’t even know how to translate this in English. anyone?]), and even misleading (i.e., 監護,留置. The list goes on and on… The reason I have trouble reading Japanese–which is my 1st language. Ugh!).
In the shoe on the other foot dept.
“Japanese parents unarmed in battle for kids taken abroad amid radiation fears
January 10, 2012 The Asahi Shimbun
By MANABU SASAKI / Staff Writer
A woman who has not seen her two children since March, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, is starting to give up hope of ever seeing her sons again.
The woman’s apartment still contains the brand-new jacket and school bag that her older son would have used if he had entered elementary school in April. The mother, a civil servant, also finds herself searching for her two sons in her apartment when she returns home from work, despite knowing deep inside that her home is empty.
But it wasn’t the quake or tsunami that separated her from the boys, aged 5 and 7.
“It is like a kidnapping,” said the woman, who lives in the Tokai region.
The boys are now in the United States with the woman’s American husband, who has refused to return to Japan, citing radiation fears. He has also filed for divorce.
There is very little she can do to win custody of the children because the Japanese government has not passed the necessary legislation to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Under the convention, if a parent illegally flees with a child under 16 to another nation, the child has to be returned to the former nation of residence.
Tokyo signaled its intention to ratify the treaty after a number of high-profile cases involving Japanese mothers taking their children to Japan without the consent of their foreign ex-spouses or in defiance of court orders.
But since the Fukushima nuclear accident started in March, Foreign Ministry officials have received a number of inquiries from Japanese parents whose spouses have left Japan for their home nations with their children in tow, using the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as an excuse not to return.
About the only thing ministry officials can do is pass on lists of lawyers in the foreign nations where the spouse has gone to.
“We feel sorry for the parents because this is a form of negative publicity from the nuclear accident,” a ministry official said. “We hope the couples will hold calm discussions based on objective information about radiation.”
The Tokai woman’s husband in March took the boys to the United States for what was supposed to have been a one-month visit. But the Great East Japan Earthquake soon struck, and the husband refused to return to Japan, expressing concerns that the sons could be exposed to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Daily reports in the United States showed the damage from the quake and tsunami. Nuclear experts often appeared on TV citing the dangers of the radiation spewing from the Fukushima plant.
The woman used a TV phone over the Internet to talk with her husband and children, trying to convince them that the Tokai region was safe.
But the children, perhaps influenced by their father, also expressed concerns about the danger of waves flowing inland as well as poison in the air.
The husband initially said he would return to Japan once the situation at the nuclear plant stabilized. However, by summer, he had withdrawn about $17,000 from his wife’s bank account and had rented an apartment in the United States.
In November, he filed a lawsuit in the United States seeking a divorce. He did not abide by his initial promise even after the Japanese government declared the situation at the Fukushima plant to be under control.
The woman met her future husband in 2001, when she was studying in New York. They were married the following year.
The husband was still a student, and living in New York was not economically feasible. So the couple decided to move to Japan with the wife working to support the family.
But now, she lacks any assurance of finding a stable job in the United States. She feels the possibility is low that she would be granted custody of the children under such conditions.
She has consulted with a U.S. office handling inquiries about abducted children. If Japan had joined the Hague Convention, the United States would have been obligated to return her children to Japan as a member of the convention, the office told her.
But Japan has not yet joined, leaving her and her children uncovered for protection under the convention.
She also consulted a lawyer in the United States because she felt the only way to get her children back was through a lawsuit of her own. But she was told that U.S. courts looked at how the children were being raised over the most recent six months. That would put her at a disadvantage because she had been separated from her children since the natural disasters.
Having allowed her children to remain in the United States because of radiation fears ended up working against her.
A court case in the United States can be time-consuming and costly, and she has no guarantee of winning.
Through letters and phone calls, she repeatedly tells her two children that they mean everything to her, but she has no idea when she may see them again.
“I hope the government joins the convention as soon as possible to prevent parents from successfully fleeing with their children,” she said.
Officials said there have been cases of lawyers recommending that parents flee Japan with their children because there is a good chance they can get away with it.
“Custody battles with a foreign nation should be resolved through international rules after joining the Hague Convention,” said Mikiko Otani, a lawyer who specializes in divorces among international couples. “It is extremely difficult for an individual to find a lawyer in a foreign nation specializing in such matters and proceeding with legal action.”
She also said many parents in Japan face difficulties because there are few lawyers knowledgeable about international divorce cases.
“There are risks involved in international marriage because of differences in laws and cultures,” Otani said. “There are also major differences in thinking on divorce and custody, so there is a need to be aware of the need for a basic understanding of the related laws.”