Japan gov't eyes change over snatched kids
By Jacques Lhuillery ,AFPTOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be under pressure when he meets U.S. President Barack Obama this week to pledge progress on a long-stalled treaty to prevent the snatching of children by a Japanese parent in international divorce cases.
February 21, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Abe is expected to promise that Japan will follow through on a decades-old pledge to ratify the Hague Convention on child abduction, giving some legal muscle to hundreds of foreign fathers — including Americans, French and Canadians — kept apart from their half-Japanese children.
“Those are only the reported cases,” French Senator Richard Yung told AFP during a recent trip to Tokyo to press officials on the issue.
Japan is the lone member of the G-8 industrialized nations — the others being the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and Canada — not to have adopted the 32-year-old international treaty.
Key allies including the U.S., France and Britain have long demanded Tokyo step into line.
Diplomats say ratification of the Hague Convention could come during Japan's current parliamentary session, which ends in the summer.
That would make it the 90th state to adopt the treaty, which is aimed at securing “the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or held” in another treaty state.
“These cases are particularly cruel — birthday or Christmas presents are returned,” said Yung, who added that he met a vice foreign affairs minister but was refused a sit down with Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.
The changes would also offer hope to hundreds of thousands of Japanese fathers who face similar estrangement under domestic custody laws.
Japan is unique among major industrialized nations when it comes to the children of estranged parents.
Courts do not recognize joint custody — for foreigners or Japanese nationals — and almost always order that children live with their mothers, leaving desperate fathers with almost no recourse to see their children.
Many lose touch with their offspring if the ex-spouse blocks access, a common occurrence due to the widely held opinion that child rearing is a task for women, while men earn the money.
Yasuyuki Watanabe, the deputy mayor of a small Japanese town, has not seen his daughter in years. After the country's devastating 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, he says he tried to make contact with the now 5-year-old girl.