Archive for January, 2013

Woman throws newborn baby out of toilet window

Posted on January 24, 2013. Filed under: Abuse Neglect Death | Tags: , , , |

 JAN. 24, 2013 SAITAMA —Japan Today

Police said Wednesday they have arrested a woman for allegedly killing her newborn baby son by throwing him out of a toilet window in an apartment in Honjo, Saitama Prefecture.

According to police, Madoka Masuda, 26, Masuda was staying at her 30-year-old boyfriend’s apartment when she gave birth to the child in the toilet on the evening of Jan 19, TBS reported. Immediately following the birth, police say she threw the child out of the window and left it outside to die.

Masuda’s boyfriend was quoted by police as saying that he noticed something was amiss due to an unusual odor in the bathroom and looked out of the window. He saw the baby’s body outside and notified the authorities.

Masuda was arrested at the scene on a murder charge.

Japan Today

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Hague not a priority….Japan will sign the Hague

Posted on January 20, 2013. Filed under: Child Abduction, Hague Convention | Tags: , , , , |

I am a bit confused. Two articles came out on the same day. Three articles in the last 3 days. One says Hague on fast track, another say Japan will join the treaty, and the third says treaty is not a priority. It seems clear that politicians and bureaucrats are not on the same page and nothing is going to happen in the next diet session. Japan has been saying for over 10 years they will sign the Hague. There are still a large number of lawyers that disagree about signing the Hague. I don’t think this treaty will be signed until there is an overwhelming consensus that it is a good thing. Click on the links to read the full articles.

Hague treaty not priority, past bill needs study: Tanigaki

http:/hague not priority

Japan says it will join child abduction treaty

http://join child abduction treaty

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Man suspected of killing 9-year-old granddaughter

Posted on January 18, 2013. Filed under: Abuse Neglect Death | Tags: , , , |

 JAN. 15, 2013 –  TOKYO

Police said Tuesday that a man is suspected of strangling to death his 9-year-old granddaughter and then trying to kill himself at their home in Tokyo’s Machida.

According to police, the 66-year-old man lived with his son and his daughter. Fuji TV reported that the father returned home from working a night shift at about 9 a.m. and found his daughter, clad in her pajamas, lying on a futon. She had apparently been strangled to death. The man found his father in another room, where he had slit his wrists and tried to hang himself, police said.

Police said the grandfather was taken to hospital where his condition is not life-threatening. He was quoted as saying that he killed the girl, Fuji reported.

Japan Today

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Japan Timesに私の記事が掲載されました。 多くの人に分かってもらいたいのは 「誰でも私のようになるリスクがある」

Posted on January 12, 2013. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , |

Japan Timesに私の記事が掲載されました。
多くの人に分かってもらいたいのは
「誰でも私のようになるリスクがある」
ということです。
日本人は「穢れ」の観念が強く、被害者を見ると距離をとり、そして「自分はあいつらとは違う」と思いこもうとします。
たしかに、目を背ければ、そのリスクを考えることなく穏やかな生活を送れます。
しかし、司法を正さない限り、そのリスクは決してなくなりません。
目を背け続け、ある日突然家に帰り子どもがいなくなってから、そのリスクに気づいても遅いのです。 
以下、Japan Timesの記事の訳です。
困難な子の親権問題における不正義の是正
司法の硬直的な考え方が改まらなければ、ハーグ条約批准によっても親による子どもの拉致(parental abduction)を止められないだろう
伊藤聖美記者
2010年5月6日、総務省の官僚である渡邉泰之氏が家に帰ったところ、妻と2歳の娘が服などとともに消え去っていた。
彼の妻はゴールデンウィーク直後に娘を連れ去った。彼がゴールデンウィーク中に娘をハイキングに連れて行ったり、地元のお祭りに連れていったりして楽しんだ数日後のことだった。
現在、栃木県那須塩原市の副市長である渡邉氏(40)は、その当時のことを思い出し、娘を背中にしょって娘が寝付いて寄り掛かるまで一緒に歌を歌っていた時のことなどを詳しく語った。
彼の人生は、その運命の日を境にして完全に変わってしまった。娘は先月で5歳になってしまった。
「子どもたちが両方の親の愛情を感じて育つことほど重要なことはありません。特に、子どもたちが成長していくときには。私の娘は私に捨てられたと感じていると思います。私が娘をもはや愛していないから姿を消したのだと。」と渡邉氏はJapan Timesに語った。
日本において、夫婦間の諍いののちに子どもとの関係を引き裂かれた親は数多くおり、渡邉氏はその一人に過ぎない。日本という国は単独親権制度を採用しており、親権は通常母親にわたすことにしている。そして、子どもと引き離された親に対して、子どもたちと、たとえ会えるにせよ、非常にわずかな頻度でしか会えなくする慣習を有している。
この日本の残酷な現実は、外国人にも広く知られている。その外国人の中には、日本人の配偶者により子どもを海外から日本に連れ去られ、引き離されている在外の者も含まれる。
これらのいわゆる親による子どもの拉致(abduction)の問題が、国境を跨いだ子どもの誘拐を防止するためのハーグ条約を日本が批准するよう求める要求が増大している背景にある。
「これらの二つの問題は、実際には非常に密接に関連しています。なぜならば国内の問題も国際の問題も状況は全く同じだからです。自分の子どもがある日突然誘拐され、会うことすら許されないという状況は全く変わりません。」と渡邉氏は言う。
娘の誘拐後に妻との長期間の裁判所で闘い続け、現在も離婚手続きを進める渡邉氏は、こう続ける
連れ去られた当初妻は彼を娘に数回会わせたが、その後、妻が彼を虚偽の配偶者暴力(DV)で訴えるという仕打ちをし突然会えなくなったと言う。
渡邉氏の妻は、妊娠中に渡邉氏が大きなハサミを突きつけて脅したり、彼女が駅のホームの傍にいる際には喜んで突き落してくれるヤクザの知り合いがいると語ったと主張して裁判に訴えた。しかし、その配偶者暴力の訴えは後に取り下げられた。
「『DV』の訴えにより裁判所への出頭命令書を受けとること程、おそろしい経験はありません。私は(それを受け取った際)完全に取り乱しました。しかし、裁判官は、妻の主張の大半には疑問があることを認め、妻には虚偽の申立ての罪が科される恐れがあると警告しました。そこで、妻は、判決が出される直前になり訴えを取り下げたのです」と渡邉氏は言った。
にもかかわらず、彼の妻は子どもの監護権を求める裁判を訴え、そして、再度、暴力の訴えを出してきたのである。
昨年の2月、千葉家裁の裁判官である若林辰繁氏は、渡邉氏の娘の監護権を「継続性の原則」を利用して妻とし、更には渡邉氏が配偶者暴力を犯したと認定した上で、娘を引き渡すよう求めていた彼の訴えを退けた。最高裁は9月にそれを追認する決定をした。
渡邉氏は、法廷での闘争を続けつつ、国会議員にこの問題に取り組むよう要請し、彼の事件は国会でも取り上げられた。
渡邉氏は、自らの立場から、当初は匿名で訴え続けることを望んでいた。しかし、彼の状況について多くの人たちの支援を得るため、彼は自らに起こったことを報道機関に伝える道を進むことにした。
「私は『DV夫』という烙印を押されてしまった。その裁判官は、私の件について完全に事実と法を無視したのです。私は立ち上がり(裁判官と)闘う以外に残された選択肢はなかったのです。」と渡邉氏は語った。
渡邉氏は、裁判官である若林氏を罷免させるため、国会議員からなる裁判官訴追委員会に助けを求めた。
日本に居るいわゆる「置き去りにされた親」たちの数多くがこの若林氏に対し激しい憤りを募らせているが、特に2011年に「『継続性の原則』よりも子どもの利益を優先すべき」と国会で答弁した江田五月法務大臣(当時)を非難したことは激怒させた。
「同様の状況におかれた人たちは非常に多くいます。私は、その人たちのためにも諦めることはできないのです。これは、私と娘だけの問題ではありません。全ての子どもたちとその親のための闘いなのです。」と渡邉氏は言う。
家裁による調査によると、子どもを連れ去った親から子どもを引き渡すよう求める親による裁判は2001年には409件であったが、2011年には、子どもを戻すよう求める親の数は1985件にまで跳ね上がった。しかし、その数は、家裁が公式に受けた「置き去りにされた親」により法的に訴えられた事件しか反映していない。専門家は、それは氷山の一角でしかないと推測する。
早稲田大学の家族法の教授である棚村氏は、日本における単独親権制度や通常母親に監護権を渡す現在の司法の仕組みなど、様々な要因が親による子どもの拉致が増加している背景にあるという。
「時代は変わっているのです。父親も子育てに一層関わるようになり、単独親権制度を含む法的な仕組みが子どもを巡る争いをより起きやすくさせています。日本の司法の仕組みのこの部分については時代遅れになっていると考えます。」と棚村教授は言う。
日本の司法体系を独特なものにする(他国との)もっとも大きな違いは、日本において最初に子どもを連れ去った親の行為は犯罪とみなされないという点である。そのため、離婚のおそれが生じると、片方の親(通常は母親)が子どもをその親の実家に連れ去ることが当たり前となってしまうのである。
しかし、もし置き去りにされた親が、その後、家から消え去ってしまった子どもを取り返そうとすると、その行為は誘拐とみなされるのである。
棚村氏は、子どもから引き離された親が子どもを取り返そうとして誘拐犯とされる事件では、取り返そうとした親が自分の行為が誘拐にあたると気づいていない場合が数多くあると主張する。彼らからすれば、単に離婚の争いの一環と考えていたか、または、子どもを虐待環境から助け出そうとしただけなのだと。
「親による誘拐をすべて違法とするのは困難ですが、同時に、ダブルスタンダードになっている事件も数多くあるのです。最初に母親が子どもを連れ去るのは問題なくて、父親が子どもを取り返そうとしたら違法とされます。これは、長い間、子どもは母親の所有物と考えられてきた考え方が根底にあります」と棚村氏は言う。
別居後に子どもが両方の親に会う機会を奪われることを防ぐため、民法の766条が2011年に改正され、裁判に持ち込まれていない離婚手続きの中で面会交流や養育費その他について決定するよう明記された。そして、その際には子どもの利益を最優先に考慮するようにも規定された。
しかし、このような改正は渡邉氏のような人たちを救うことができなかった。渡邉氏の事件は当該改正後に判決が出たのだ。「この改正は子どもの養育について離婚する際に合意することを目的とするものです。しかし、この合意は全く強制力をもつものではありません。」と棚村氏は言う。
棚村氏や他の専門家は、日本が「国際的な子の奪取の民事面に関するハーグ条約」に署名すれば、日本の司法の仕組みは根本的に変わることになり、そして、多くの人々の考え方も根本から改められるに違いない、さもなければ、この条約への加盟は失敗に終わる、との意見で一致する。
最近設立された日本人と外国人の置き去りにされた親やその支援者等から構成される団体である「絆・親子再統合」の代表であるジョン・ゴメス氏は、子どもは両方の親に会う権利があると主張する。また、日本国内の監護権についての今の一方的な仕組みを残したままハーグ条約に加盟しても何も解決しないのだから、置き去りにされた親たちは協力しあうことが必要だと強調する。
「国際的なケースも国内のケースも根っこは同じ原因を抱えています。それは日本の家族法であり、日本の裁判所です。」とゴメス氏は言う。
「この拉致問題は、日本にいる全ての人に影響を与えます。母親であろうと父親であろうと。そして、日本人であろうと外国人であろうと。」
ハーグ条約は、国際間の親による誘拐を防ぐため、片方の親が「常居住地」である国から違法に連れ去られた子どもを迅速に返還させることを目的としている。G8の中で、この条約に署名していないのは唯一日本だけである。
日本は、米国、英国、カナダなどを含む加盟国からこの条約に加盟するよう圧力を受け続けてきた。しかし、強い国内の反対勢力、特に、配偶者暴力から身を守るために子どもを連れて日本に戻ったと主張する日本人の母親たち(の圧力)により、日本政府は全くやる気を見せなかった。
しかし、国際社会からの激しい批判を受け、日本は、ついに条約への署名の宣言とハーグ条約関連法案を、野田総理の民主党が多数を占める前国会に提出した。しかし、政治家たちは、国内問題に関連する国内の権力闘争に明け暮れて多くの時間を費やし、ハーグ条約を再び隅に押しやったのである。
そして、この問題は自民党による新政府下において解決の方向に話が進むか不透明な状態にある。
政府の官僚は一度審議が始まればハーグ条約関連法は可決されるだろうと自信をのぞかせる。しかし、日本人の妻と別居し娘と会うこともままならないまま日本に長期間滞在するゴメス氏のような親たちは、ハーグ条約加盟は正しい方向に向かう単なる一里塚に過ぎず、問題解決の決定打にはならないと言う。
ゴメス氏は、法的に親による誘拐は止めさせなければならず、面会交流権は強制力を有するものとし、そして、共同親権制度が導入されるべきと説明する。しかし、新しいルールが遵守されることを確実にするためには、これらの変化による利益を多くの人々が理解しなければならず、多くの人々が制度改正と同時に気付くことも必須であるとも加えて主張した。
「ハーグ条約は単なる一つの道具です。我々の究極の目標は、日本の社会的・法的な変革です。人々の考え方や行動の完全な変革です。」とゴメス氏は言い、続けて「日本人も外国人も同様であり、社会的・法的な変化は日本社会と子どもたちにとって良いことであり、生活の質の向上につながるものと我々は固く信じています。」と語った。

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Former MLB pitcher Kuwata rejects corporal punishment in sports

Posted on January 12, 2013. Filed under: Abuse Neglect Death | Tags: , , , |

By Jim Armstrong
National Jan. 12, 2013 -TOKYO —

Former major league pitcher Masumi Kuwata has spoken out against corporal punishment in sports following the suicide of a Japanese high school student who endured repeated beatings by his basketball coach.

“I don’t think corporal punishment as a form of instruction makes one stronger,” Kuwata said in an interview with national broadcaster NHK on Friday. “I think those teaching sports need to change their methods to fit the times.”

The 17-year-old boy, who was the captain of his basketball team, hanged himself after being physically punished by his basketball coach in late December, the Osaka municipal board of education said Tuesday. The student told his mother he had been struck 30 to 40 times the day before he died last month.

The 47-year-old coach, whose name has not been disclosed, admitted slapping the teen when he made a mistake and said it was intended to “fire him up,” the board said.

Osaka police are investigating the incident which has sparked a national debate about the place of physical punishment in Japanese sports.

Kuwata, who studied sports psychology after his playing days with the Yomiuri Giants, said in the interview he was the victim of physical punishment as a baseball player in elementary school.

“There were no days when you weren’t hit,” Kuwata said.

Kuwata, who had a brief career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007, said he hopes the recent incident will lead to reforms in Japan.

“I think there is a lack of understanding,” Kuwata said. “I hope this incident will not be wasted and will serve as a catalyst for reform. I hope it will lead to changes in the way we develop athletes.”

Physical punishment in sports is fairly common in Japan, where it’s felt it toughens up athletes. The most recent incident isn’t the first that resulted in a death.

In 2009, a former sumo trainer was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the fatal beating of a young wrestler during training.

Former trainer Junichi Yamamoto ordered three wrestlers, in the name of practice, to beat 17-year-old wrestler Tokitaizan, hitting him with beer bottles, a baseball bat and hosing him with cold water.

Tokitaizan, whose real name was Takashi Saito, collapsed after practice and died in June 2007. An autopsy showed bruises and injuries that prosecutors said showed his ordeal was not training.

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Child custody injustices hard to fix Joining Hague may curb parental abductions if legal mindset evolves

Posted on January 11, 2013. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention | Tags: , , |

にほんごで
Friday, Jan. 4, 2013
By MASAMI ITO

On May 6, 2010, Yasuyuki Watanabe, an internal affairs ministry bureaucrat, came home to find his wife and 2-year old daughter gone, along with their clothes.

Playing catchup: Yasuyuki Watanabe, deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, speaks during an interview at a Tokyo hotel on Dec. 11. SATOKO KAWASAKI
His wife had spirited away their daughter near the end of Golden Week, just days after he was enjoying the holidays taking her on hikes and to local festivals, recalled Watanabe, 40, now deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture. He recounted how he carried his daughter on his back and how they sang songs together until she fell asleep, snuggling against him.
His world was turned upside down that fateful day. Last month she turned 5.
“It is so important for children to feel loved by both parents, especially when they are growing up, and I think that my daughter feels abandoned by me, that I left her because I didn’t love her anymore,” Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview in Tokyo. “The most painful thing about my situation is when I think about how my daughter must be feeling.”
Watanabe is one of many parents in Japan who have been torn away from their children after a falling-out with their spouse in a nation that grants only sole custody, usually to the mother, and where it is customary for parents not living with their offspring, to have little, if any, contact with them.
This has also been a widely reported harsh reality for foreign parents, including those living overseas whose children have been taken to Japan by estranged Japanese spouses.
These so-called parental child abductions are behind growing calls for Japan to join the international Hague treaty to prevent such cross-border kidnappings.
“These two problems are actually closely related because the domestic and international situation is the same — your children are abducted one day out of the blue and you are forbidden from seeing them,” Watanabe said.
For Watanabe, what followed was a long legal battle with his wife, and divorce proceedings, which continue.
Initially his wife let him see their daughter a few times, but that stopped abruptly when he was slapped with domestic violence charges — which he branded a lie.
His wife alleged he had threatened her with a large pair of scissors while she was pregnant and told her he knew yakuza who would be willing to help him out with the situation by pushing her off a station platform in front of a train. The violence charges were later dropped.
“There is nothing more terrifying than receiving an order to appear before the court over ‘DV’ allegations. I was completely distraught. The judge, however, recognized that much of her claims were questionable and warned she could be charged with false accusations, so she dropped the charges the day before the ruling was to be made,” Watanabe said.
But his wife then filed a lawsuit, demanding custody of their child and, again, adding allegations of abuse.
Last February, presiding Judge Tatsushige Wakabayashi at the Chiba Family Court granted Watanabe’s ex-wife custody of their daughter from the viewpoint of “continuity,” ruled that Watanabe had committed domestic violence and rejected his demand that his daughter be returned. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in September.
While his legal battles dragged on, Watanabe asked lawmakers to address the issue and his case was deliberated on in the Diet.
Given his public profile, Watanabe originally wished to remain anonymous. But to garner public support for his situation, he recently came forward to tell his story to the press.
“I’ve been labeled a DV husband, and the judge completely ignored the facts and the law in my case. I had no choice but to stand up and fight,” he said.
Watanabe has solicited the help of a special group of lawmakers who are trying to get Judge Wakabayashi fired from the bench. Among the so-called left-behind parents in Japan, Wakabayashi has spurred widespread ire, especially when in 2011, he criticized then-Justice Minister Satsuki Eda for telling the Diet that priority should be placed on the welfare of the child rather than the “principle of continuity.”
“There are many people in similar situations. I cannot give up for their sake. It is not just about me and my daughter. This is a battle for all children and their parents,” Watanabe said.
According to data compiled by family courts, there were 409 parents seeking the return of their offspring from an estranged spouse in 2001, whereas by 2011, there were 1,985 parents seeking to get their kids back. The numbers, however, reflect only the legal cases filed by left-behind parents that were officially accepted by the nation’s family courts. Experts speculate they constitute only the tip of the iceberg.
Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of family law at Waseda University, said various factors are behind the increase in parental child abductions, including Japan’s sole custody principle and the current legal framework that generally grants that right to mothers.
“Times have changed — fathers are more involved in child-rearing, and the legal system — including the principle of sole custody — makes battles over children more likely to happen. I think this part of Japan’s legal system is outdated,” Tanamura said.
One major difference that makes Japan’s legal system peculiar is that when an estranged spouse initially takes a child, it isn’t considered a crime. This is because it is common for an estranged parent, generally the mother, to take the children to her parents’ domicile if a divorce is being contemplated.
But if the left-behind parent then subsequently tries to retrieve the offspring spirited away from their home, the action is considered kidnapping. Tanamura claimed there are many cases in which parents who spirit offspring away are unaware such action could be construed as abduction. From their point of view, they are merely considering a divorce or fleeing an abusive environment.
“It is hard to label all parental kidnappings as illegal . . . but at the same time, there are many cases that could constitute a double standard. It’s OK for mothers to first take the children away, but when the fathers try to get them back, this is illegal,” Tanamura said. “This is based on the longtime concept that children belong with their mothers.”
To prevent children from losing access to both parents after a separation, Article 766 of the Civil Law was revised in 2011 to specify that visitation rights, child-support payments and other matters be determined during nonlitigated divorce proceedings, and that the welfare of the child be considered first.
But even this change can’t help people like Watanabe because his case was ruled on after the amendment. “The aim of the revision is to promote forming agreements (over child care) when getting a divorce. But there is nothing that guarantees compliance,” Tanamura said.
Tanamura and other experts thus agree that if and when Japan signs the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it must at the same time institute fundamental changes in the legal system, and the public mindset must also be overhauled, or joining the convention will lead to naught.
John Gomez, chairman of the recently founded Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, a group of Japanese and non-Japanese parents, friends and supporters advocating the right of children to have access to both parents, emphasized the need for left-behinds to cooperate because simply joining the Hague Convention will not solve anything in Japan if it continues to take a one-sided approach to domestic custodial rights.
“The problem of international cases and in-country cases has the same root cause — Japanese family law and the courts,” Gomez said.
“The abduction issue affects all people in Japan — mothers as well as fathers, Japanese as well as non-Japanese.”
The Hague treaty aims for the swift return of children wrongfully taken out of the country of their “habitual residence” by a parent to prevent cross-border parental kidnappings. Of the Group of Eight countries, Japan is the only nation yet to sign the convention.
Japan has been under pressure from member states, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, to join the convention, but it has been reluctant, given strong domestic opposition, especially from Japanese mothers who claim they fled to Japan with their children to protect themselves from abusive ex-spouses.
Facing severe criticism from the international community, however, Japan finally reached the point of submitting a bid to sign the treaty and Hague-related legislation to the Diet during the last session presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan. But the politicians instead spent most of their time bickering over internal power struggles related to other domestic issues, pushing the Hague Convention to the sidelines once again.
And it remains unclear whether the issue will move forward under the new government led by the Liberal Democratic Party.
Government officials have expressed confidence that once deliberations begin, the Hague bid will be approved by the Diet. But parents, including Gomez, a longtime Japan resident who himself is separated from his Japanese wife and is having difficulty seeing his daughter, say joining the Hague treaty is only a step in the right direction, not a silver bullet.
Gomez explained that on the legal front, parental kidnappings must be stopped, visitation rights made enforceable and the idea of joint custody introduced. But he added that public awareness must also be raised at the same time so the public understands the benefits of the changes to ensure the rules are followed.
“The Hague is only one tool. The ultimate goal for us is a social and legal transformation of Japan . . . a complete transformation in terms of mindset and practice,” Gomez said. “We firmly believe, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, that the social and legal transformation is for the betterment of Japanese society and children and improvement in the quality of life.”

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