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Japan would help children of international marriages

 Japanese women from collapsed international marriages who bring their children to Japan without their partner’s consent are facing charges of abduction — an issue that has highlighted a convention covering international child abduction.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has been signed by about 80 countries, including in Europe and the United States. Under the convention, it is illegal for one parent to take a child away from his or her country or residence without first settling issues such as custody and visitation rights.

Signatory countries have a responsibility to return children who have unilaterally been taken out of the country by one of their parents. (There are some exceptions, such as when the child refuses to go back.) Japan, however, has not signed the convention, so this rule of returning the child does not apply. This has raised strong dissatisfaction among foreigners who cannot see their children because they have been taken to Japan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice are giving favorable consideration to signing the convention, but the opinions of experts are split.

Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer familiar with the issue, is opposed to Japan signing the convention, based on the viewpoint of Japan protecting its own citizens.“In over 90 percent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse,” Onuki says. He says that when the Japanese women come back to Japan, they don’t bring with them evidence of domestic violence or other problems, making their claims hard to prove, and the voice of the man saying, “Give me back my child,” tends to be heard louder.

Mikiko Otani, a lawyer who specializes in family law, supports Japan participating in the convention. The first reason she gives is a connection with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.N. committee that monitors how the Convention on the Rights of the Child is implemented advises each country to ratify the Hague convention as a pact that is integrated with the convention on child rights.

Otani adds that joining the convention does not provide only disadvantages. There are now cases in which former foreign husbands refuse to let their child see their mother, saying that if they let their child go to Japan, he or she won’t come back. There are also cases of mothers setting aside a security deposit of 100,000 dollars (about 10 million yen) to bring their children over to Japan.

When couples divorce in Japan, only one side has custody rights, and the family view that the child should be handed over to the mother is prevalent. Under the Hague convention, however, joint custody is maintained as long as domestic violence is not involved, and the party not living with the children has visitation rights. This stance shakes up the Japanese view of the family, but I think Japan should join the convention.

There are the reasons given by Otani, but in addition to that, the shape of Japanese society and families is changing largely. For example, the rate of men who are taking child-care leave is still at a low level but increasing, figures by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare show. Division of housework and child-rearing between the husband and wife is natural. It is not an age in which one parent takes complete responsibility for a child.

If children in international marriages can freely go between the two countries of their mother and father, their lives will surely be greatly enriched. (By Megumi Nishikawa, Expert Senior Writer)

For previous Black Tokyo (BT) posts on this topic visit:

BT article on Custody Battles in Japan

BT article on Japan’s parental abduction treaty.

BT article on USFJ service members obtaining citizenship for their foreign spouse.

BT article on abandoned families in Japan.

BT article on problems foreigners face with the Japanese family registry system.

BT post on adoption and child abuse.

BT article on Japinos and Japayukis.

BT article, Land of the Rising Half-breeds.


  1. Ku Ku May 22, 2009

    I could not imagine not being able to see my child. I love it when Japan makes leaps forward like this. She is already such an innovative country. The family structure is changing and in some ways for the better. I know they can find a balance to this. As long as their is no abuse of any kind. Everything should be fair and equal for both parties involved. Although a child can be brought up by one parent. If there is two, it takes two and the child knows that too.

  2. Tim Johnston Tim Johnston February 13, 2014

    In the first Paragraph…….
    It states that under the Convention, it would be illegal for a parent to take away the child or avoid the other parents consent without settling visitation rights and access to the child. Which is the way it is already in most countries. Japan is the last country to sign the Hague convention and has only done so, from international pressure and left behind parents, such as myself. parents that continue to push Japan to respect a childrens rights and rights of loving parents and stand upright to correct the outdated Bullwinkle legal systems that’s sexist, racist and one sided. Favoring with the Mothers in Japan and alienating the fathers from the Childs life. In foreign countries we love our children and have a voice. We demand to be granted access and equal visitation to our children in 2014.

    When you reside in the same city as your son, yet have no rights, It’s not acceptable and is a crime to deny a living parent and his son to share their lives together. I love my Son more than anything and yet his mother knows how to use and abuse the system and gets away with it with a sly smile. It’s up to Japan to change the laws and make it fair for all people.

    I pray after April 2014 the Laws will be upheld and foreign parents will have equal rights to love their children, I will fight until my death for my only son.

    Tim Johnston Japan
    Kai Endo Japan

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