Japan must hurry to join Hague treaty

Posted on February 1, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

To read the story in Japanese click here

The Yomiuri Shimbun

International marriages are on the rise, and subsequently so are cases in which former spouses engage in international custody battles over their children.

To help address this situation, the government set up a senior vice-ministerial council involving related ministries and tasked with discussing the possibility of Japan joining an international convention. The discussions necessary for Japan to join the convention should be expedited.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction contains the principle that children from an international marriage who are removed from their country of residence by one of their divorced parents, without the other parent’s consent, must be returned to the country of residence.

Signatory nations are obligated to provide administrative cooperation in such efforts as discovering the whereabouts of such children and restoring them to their country of habitual residence.

Eighty-two countries, mostly in the West and Latin America, have signed the convention, while Japan has not.

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Friction over Japan’s status

This has led to trouble between Japan and signatory nations, with Japanese women returning to this country with their children and being sued over parental rights by their former husbands in their original country of residence. There are said to be nearly 100 such cases involving Japanese and U.S. parents.

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara for Japan to join the convention soon. The French Senate adopted a resolution along the same lines earlier this week.

There is a strong view within the government that Japan should not deepen the diplomatic friction over the issue.

The convention itself is based on the idea that disputes related to parental rights should be resolved in accordance with the law of the original state of residence.

Therefore, the convention is not a framework under which only Japan suffers a disadvantage. By becoming a signatory, the government of this country can seek the return to Japan of children wrongfully removed to, or held in, another signatory nation.

The number of Japanese who marry foreigners has recently averaged around 40,000 a year, about quadrupled from 1983, when the Hague convention came into force. As if in line with the increase, the number of couples who eventually divorce and battle over parental rights also is rising.

The times require Japan to join the Hague convention, which has become established as the international standard.

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Govt has work to do

For Japan to join the convention, the government has to choose a supervisory ministry and prepare relevant domestic laws. It also has to take measures to inform international couples of the contents of the Hague convention.

Domestic violence by former husbands is often cited as a reason why Japanese women take their children from their country of habitual residence to Japan. More than a few people are wary of Japan’s signing the convention, saying it will harm the interests of Japanese citizens if such mothers are obliged to return their children.

The convention stipulates that if there is a high possibility that return would expose a child to danger, the relevant authority of the state receiving the request is not obliged to order the return of the child.

We hope the government will do its utmost to dispel lingering apprehension by examining actual cases in which parents refuse to return children and look into what sort of measures other countries are taking with regard to domestic violence.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2011)

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