The Diet enacted a law Wednesday needed to ratify an international treaty to help settle cross-border child custody disputes, paving the way for Japan to join the pact possibly early next year.
The Upper House at its plenary session unanimously approved the legislation, which stipulates domestic procedures for enforcing the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Diet endorsed the treaty in late May.
After completing all domestic procedures, the government aims to join the convention with 89 signatories by the end of this year. The pact sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return to the country of habitual residence of children under 16 taken or retained by one parent, if requested by the other parent.
Japan will be the last Group of Eight member to accede to the treaty. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had planned to have both the Hague treaty and the legislation on domestic procedures clear the Diet ahead of this year’s G-8 summit to be held in Northern Ireland starting next Monday.
The other G-8 members are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.S. and Russia.
Under the legislation, a central authority will be set up in the Foreign Ministry to locate children who have been taken away and encourage the people involved to settle the dispute through consultations.
If the consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will decide on the matter. The legislation also allows a party to refuse to hand over a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared.