Japan and the rights of children: Kevin Brown from Children First
Kevin Brown – Special Contribution
Modern Tokyo Times
My name is Kevin Brown and I am the co-founder of Children First (http://www.childrenfirst.jp), an NPO that advocates for children in Japan. Children Firsts mission “is to ensure children’s welfare and rights are the top priority for parents, policymakers and the public-at-large.” Therefore, the role of Children First applies to many factors related to the rights of children in Japan and how to relate this knowledge to appropriate bodies in order to tackle and focus on areas which need changing in order to protect children.
Children First also understands the need to raise awareness and to connect with organizations, government bodies and the general public. Therefore, our next campaign is to interact with the general public and local government offices. In order to do this I am going to ride my bike from Kumamoto to Tokyo and throughout my journey I will be raising the issue of the rights of children.
My ride will begin on September 13th and end on October 17th. Therefore, I will visit many prefectural offices during my journey and give a short presentation about the rights of children. In the past I have already visited 8 prefectural offices and given presentations about serious issues related to children. This proved beneficial and often they were unaware about serious issues related to the rights of children. Therefore, it was a great chance to interact with people of importance and to develop ties between Children First and local government bodies.
During the meetings we talked about a DVD made by the Supreme Court of Japan in 2006. The message in the DVD is quite simple. To be happy, children need both parents after divorce when both parents care about bringing up their child or children in the right way. The Supreme Court made the video but the Family Courts don’t show the video because of factors only known to them but is doesn’t make sense to ignore the Supreme Court. More surprisingly the Family Courts hide the existence of the video, therefore, the majority of parents don’t know about the importance of this video and the ones that do, are often not allowed to see it.
Another important piece of information I give to prefectural offices relates to the United Nations Convention on the Right of a Child (UNCRC). This Convention was signed and ratified by Japan and it states that children have the right to maintain contact with both parents. If the parent and child are separated for some reason then the state (Japan) must help re-establish contact with the non-custodial parent. The Family Courts also ignore this Convention, which is equivalent to a law which was ratified by the Japanese government.
Alongside this important information I also give prefectural offices a book written by Colin Jones, a law professor in Kyoto, related to the Family Court system. This book is about the Family Court system in Japan and it highlights the inadequacies of this institution. For citizens who support the rights of the child/children and both parents, then they would agree that the rulings handed down by judges are detrimental to the well-being of children in Japan. The Family Courts are not acting in the best interests of children because they are not considering all the facts and the wishes of each individual involved in each case. Family Courts need to revise their outdated laws and implement laws which are clear and which focus on human rights. This applies to the well-being of children and all involved parties in each respective case.
Children First also talks about Parental Alienation (PA) which is common in hostile divorces and this issue is very serious in Japan because of the inadequate legal system. This is when one parent says something bad to the child/children about the other parent in order break the bond that the other parent had and. It is clear that this manipulation is very damaging to all children who face this serious issue. According to child psychology experts there are different degrees of PA ranging from mild to severe. The main point being, PA is bad for children irrespective of the degree. Recently Brazil passed a law making PA a crime and it would be great if more countries did the same thing because this is a huge step in the right direction.
Another important area that Children First gives to prefectural offices is a “Did you know” hand out about statistics in Japan. “DID YOU KNOW: Every 3 minutes a child loses contact with one parent because of divorce…Every 7 minutes a child is a victim of school bullying…Every 12 minutes a case of child abuse is reported to protective services…Every week at least one child dies as the result of abuse.”
This is a great way to raise awareness quickly and not only is it interactive and easily understood but it is also designed to shake up a system which needs to make major changes, in order to protect children from abuse.
Every year around 160,000 children lose contact with one parent in Japan. However, to make matters worse Japan is not a good place for children who get caught up in divorce when one parent decides to control and alienate the child/children from the left behind parent. Government officials, bureaucrats, educators, and parents need to do more to make Japan a better place for all children and this is where Children First wants to help.
You can help Children First (Kevin Brown) raise awareness by following me on Facebook during my journey. Therefore, people can communicate with me through Facebook, share links with your friends and spread the word because together we can make a difference.
Children First cares for all children irrespective of race and gender because our goal is to bring more “light” to children who have been neglected and had their rights violated.
Please follow on http://www.facebook.com/oyako (Joint Custody in Japan) and Children First at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Children-First-Japan/115396388532379. Also, please visit Children First website at http://www.childrenfirst.jp/ for more information and how you can get involved and help in this important area.
Sincerely, Kevin Brown (Children First http://www.childrenfirst.jp/)