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Japan: Parental child abduction

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Human Rights, International Relations, Law, Youth

Given the rise in cases [1] [en] where children born to a Japanese mother and a foreign father are abducted by the Japanese mothers and brought to Japan without the father's consent, U.S., France, Canada and the U.K. have recently urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention [2]. The treaty, covering international child abduction, came into force in 1983 to provide specific legal means for promptly returning the child to their original state of residence.

By flickr user id: ajari. [3]

By flickr user id: ajari.

So far Japan is the only one in the Group of Seven Nations who hasn't signed the treaty, which means that the government is not required to give any information regarding the child or the mother who returned to Japan or even ask the parent to return the child.

Also, awareness about the question is very low among the citizens and major media don't help to raise knowledge of the problem. Blogger and activist Debito comments and criticizes [4] [en] the coverage of the child abduction question by the NHK (Japan national broadcasting organization), where the cases and information provided were biased against the foreign fathers.

I watched the NHK report this morning, and was, frankly, gravely disappointed. After giving some stats on international divorce (around 20,000 cases last year, about double that ten years ago), NHK gave three case studies in brief: […]
It even concluded with the typical relativities (i.e. how everyone’s doing it, therefore Japanese can too), mentioning in passing alleged cases of how NJ mothers were abducting Japanese kids overseas (meaning that now suddenly Japanese fathers were kawaisou [poor thing]; the bottom line was that Japanese are being kawaisoued). The MOFA was quoted as not being able to comment on whether Japan would be able to sign Hague.
No mention at all was made by NHK that there has not been a single case of children being returned to the NJ parent by Japanese courts [5] (the converse is untrue [6]), that Japanese are committing crimes (and not honoring overseas court custody rulings, such as the Murray Wood Case [7]), or that (and I speak from experience of not seeing my kids for about five years now [8]) the Koseki system [Japanese family registration system] will deny all title and access to Japanese parents too after divorce [9].
NHK tried too hard to be sympathetic to either abducting Japanese mothers, or the position of Japanese in general (not the kids and how they’re affected by not having both parents in their lives). What a crock.

Lawyer Kawahara calls [10]for more proactive and responsible action and participation by the politicians irrespective of which party they belong to.


Many are the cases of Japanese women who divorce from their foreign husbands and come back to Japan bringing their children with them and the failure to sign the treaty by Japan gives to countries such as Canada and U.S. grounds for criticism of such actions.[…]
After the election of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, there has been no further discussion in the Diet about the treaty. but surely the job of the members of Parliament should be to legislate to improve the functioning of our laws and treaties?
Even if the Upper House passed a censure motion against Prime Minister Aso, it's absolutely irresponsible for members of the Diet to leave the discussion as it is, with the excuse that the elections are close. A lot of bills will probably be discarded.
And this is foolish for Japan will be sooner or later left behind by the international community.
Though the possibility of attaining Government seems high for the present opposition party, the DPJ, they should collaborate with the governing party for the sake of national politics, and act with dignity.

Also another lawyer, Mori, expresses his opinion [11] about the child abduction issue but he is more doubtful about the ‘internationality’ of the problem itself.


A Japanese woman gets married to a foreigner and has a child. However, wife and husband don't get along and she brings the child with her back to Japan. We, Japanese, react with a mere “Uhm”.
Here stories such as the ‘evil’ husband one day comes back home after work and finds no one at home because she went back to her parents` house are ordinary and don’t become a reason for a divorce lawsuit.


However, abroad this is called ‘child abduction’ and is considered a crime.
In particular, in case of Japanese women, there are often cases in which they won't listen [to their ex-husband], they ignore his letters and don't even let him know where they live.
[…] For this reason, U.S., U.K. and France are urging Japan to join the Hague convention.
However, here such cases do not apply to International law but to household law and it's not good to globalize everything in every case. Every country should be free to deal with the matter according to its own culture and it's not that easy to say without any hesitation whether one should or should not sign the treaty.

But the child abduction issue does not impact only on Western parents, as the manager of a blog/agency that arranges international marriage points out [12].


About 80 western countries have already ratified the Hague Convention but Japan, Korea, China, Philippines and other Asian countries haven't as yet.
I heard that the Japanese Foreign Ministry had a lot of cases of Japanese men married to Chinese women complaining and saying things like “My wife went back to China taking the child with her without notice. I want my child back!”
On the other hand there are also cases where a Japanese man married to a Chinese woman divorces in Japan and when they contest custody in the court, it's often the Chinese mother who ends up being denied access to her child.
In any case it is the innocent children who suffer most in these situations.
I feel that Japan should arrange a national law to fix this situation as soon as possible.