Hague Convention on child abduction may shape Japan’s family law — or vice versa

Proof will come with the implementation of convention


Giant Hello Kitty-emblazoned kudos to Japan for finally signing the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Now comes the hard part: actually making it work.

Mistakenly identified by some press accounts as an accomplishment of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s accession is probably more the fruit of prolonged slogging by anonymous public servants. In the fall of 2012 a senior bureaucrat involved in implementing the treaty assured me it would be signed about the time it eventually was. The fact that elections were pending in December and a change of government was a near-certainty did not factor into the prognosis!

Now it is up to these same bureaucrats to actually implement the convention, though much of the diplomatic pressure that may have been a primary motivator in the past is gone (for now). This does not mean they are not trying, and the treaty alone will be meaningless if it is not reflected in domestic law. So the Diet must now turn to the equally important task of passing the bill containing the proposed Implementing Act that was submitted in March. Assuming that the bill is passed as is, it is probably worth reflecting on its contents.

I recently spent a month in Singapore, which joined the Hague Convention in 2010 and implemented it with a short statute that adopted most of the treaty verbatim as domestic law. With 160 articles extending over 110 A4 pages, Japan’s Implementing Act stands in stark contrast in its baroqueness, and suggests a similarly long and complex implementation process. Additional rules of practice will be issued by the Supreme Court after the act is passed.

To be fair, unlike common law jurisdictions (like Singapore) — where courts have always had a broad range of undefined inherent and equitable powers, particularly when it comes to the welfare of children — Japanese courts only have those powers given to them by statute. Insofar as the Hague Convention requires signatories to have special expedited procedures for returning abducted children, these have to be defined in order for Japanese judges to do their jobs.

Thus, much of the Implementing Act’s bulk comes from the fact that it essentially creates an entire procedural code covering not only trials but appeals and enforcement just for return order proceedings under the Hague Convention. One provision in the act (Article 73) specifically empowers the presiding judge in such cases to both allow parties to speak and order them to shut up, illustrating how few inherent powers Japanese judges actually have.

With much of the Act devoted to establishing multiple stages of proceedings, each of which is a potential source of delay or disappointment for a parent seeking return of a child, some might question whether Japan actually intends to engineer a process that could lead to that result. Again, some of this apparent complexity may simply be a factor of how Japanese law is structured. Nonetheless, one might question whether in going so far as to allow a losing party to apply for a new trial (after appeals are exhausted!) on a variety of grounds that apply to other civil trials (and which include “the first trial missed something really important”) is consistent with the convention’s mandate of achieving the prompt return of abducted children.

Even if returns are ordered, enforcement may be an issue. The enforcement process established by the act stops short of allowing the imprisonment of recalcitrant abductors or permitting bailiffs to physically seize children (which is unlikely to be good for them anyway), but it would allow a bailiff to enter private property where the child is located accompanied by a designated “third person” (the requesting parent?), who may be able to do a little bit more.

The act is particularly abstruse on the subject of enforcement, and we may just have to see how (if) it works in practice. Whatever the act does say, however, it should be noted that when the draft form was opened up to public comment, the courts themselves expressed a lack of enthusiasm for any form of “direct” enforcement.

Foreign observers will likely pay close scrutiny to the factors a court can take into account in deciding to refuse a return order based on the limited number of exceptions in the convention.

Although the treaty does not address domestic violence, the act allows a judge to consider the likelihood of the child or the taking parent being subject to harmful physical or verbal behavior (defined in the act as “violence, etc.”) if the child is returned. This is an unsurprising provision given that much of the public debate on the convention focused on the “Japanese woman fleeing from abusive foreign husband” scenario. It can also be seen as an effort to address what some commentators identify as a deficiency in the Hague Convention.

What seems equally problematic, however, is the fact that the act would also allow a court to consider whether there are circumstances rendering it difficult for the taking parent or the parent requesting return to care for the child in the country of origin. Depending on how you read this, it comes very close to allowing a judge to do a type of custody evaluation, despite the fact that the convention clearly states that decisions about returns should not be treated as determinations on the merits of any custody issue.

Needless to say, how these provisions are actually put into practice by judges remains to be seen. These will be judges in the Family Courts of Osaka and Tokyo, the two courts that will have jurisdiction over Hague cases. While the court in the nation’s cosmopolitan capital may be well acquainted with international custody cases, I have heard Kansai lawyers question whether Osaka is up to the task. Again, time will tell, and perhaps many cases will be resolved amicably through mediation.

This is an area where I have both hope and significant concerns. Mediation plays a large role in many Hague jurisdictions and will likely be important in Japan too, possibly even representing a business opportunity for arbitration associations and other providers of dispute resolution services. My hope is that such providers offer panels that include non-Japanese mediators and will thus be more approachable to foreign parents.

My concern comes from the provisions of the Implementation Act allowing judges to submit return cases to court-administered mediation. While this can only be done if both parties consent, judges often have a variety of tools at their disposal to “encourage” agreement. If this results in return cases being funneled into the same sort of mediation already used in domestic custody cases and held before mediators who must be Japanese nationals, it may not be good thing for a non-Japanese parents. This may be particularly disadvantageous since the Act is unclear on if or how a parent who has agreed to mediation can subsequently reactivate return proceedings if the talks seem fruitless.

Much of the foreign pressure to join the Hague Convention was likely driven by the expectation that doing so would result in Japanese courts behaving differently in abduction cases. If you never heard about any pressure on Singapore to ink the treaty, it might be because courts in that country were ordering children returned long before it actually signed — with orders based on determinations of what was best for the child in each case.

While the Implementing Act is complex and detailed, I am not sure that it can be characterized as clearly mandating a change in judicial behavior in terms of ultimate results. For example, despite its great length, it lacks a general statement to the effect that the return of children to their home jurisdiction is the rule rather than the exception — a fairly basic assumption of the Hague Convention.

Furthermore, because it has been socialized in Japan as a treaty that “must” be signed due to foreign pressure rather than because it represents a widely accepted view of what is in the best interests of children (i.e., not being abducted), Japanese courts could conceivably continue using their own internalized views what is best for children, which has always resulted in children remaining in Japan. Again, time will tell, fingers crossed.

On a very basic level, however, implementing the Hague Convention in Japan involves grafting a treaty devoted to the welfare of children onto a domestic legal regime in which it is rarely a consideration. Japanese family law is based primarily on consensual transactions — including divorce and child custody arrangements — in which courts or other authorities play virtually no supervisory role whatsoever. Even in the minority of cases where courts do get involved, their primary goal is to encourage an agreement — any agreement — rather than achieving a result that is in the best interests of the children affected. Joining the convention may thus bring greater attention to some of the deficiencies in the laws that apply in domestic child custody disputes — deficiencies that appear to have been taken into account in drafting the Implementing Act.

The following is one example. In addition to return orders, the Hague Convention may also be used by a parent to exercise rights of access (visitation) between signatory nations. The Implementing Act provides the mechanism for doing so: A foreign parent seeking visitation with a child taken to Japan may apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for assistance. In doing so, the parent must submit (among other things) proof that they are entitled to visitation or access under the laws of the country in which the child had been living before coming to Japan.

Going the other way, a parent in Japan may apply to MOFA for assistance with visitation with a child taken to another country. In dealing with this latter scenario, the act seems to go out of its way to avoid referring to “rights of access under Japanese law.” I am speculating, but there may well have been a desire to avoid any clear reference to access rights under Japanese law, since it is not clear that such things exist in any meaningful sense.

A clear reference to such rights in a Japanese statute would open the door to them being asserted in domestic cases, or at least invite demands for an explanation that such rights be defined for all parents in Japan, not just those seeking relief under the Hague Convention. Indeed, my own view is that a child taken from Japan to a fictional country that had an identical Implementing Act might actually find it impossible to meet the act’s requirement that they prove they are entitled to access under Japanese law. It will thus be interesting to see how this aspect of Japanese law is explained to foreign courts and central authorities.

The act’s use of the term “rights of custody” is also interesting. A key concept in the convention itself, “rights of custody” is defined there in a way that attaches particular importance to the “right to determine the child’s place of residence.” The Implementing Act refers to “rights of custody” but without defining it. Yet Article 821 of Japan’s Civil Code clearly identifies the right to designate a child’s residence as one of the rights that come with parental authority.

However, as many parents have discovered, this is an apparently meaningless right once the other parent has decided to unilaterally designate a different residence by abducting the child. Here again, the drafters may have wished to avoid drawing attention to potential conflicts with domestic law by seeking to limit “rights of custody” to being a concept that only applies in convention cases.

If this was the intent, I doubt it will be successful. Parents of abducted children are understandably very persistent, and the many Japanese parents who will never benefit from Japan joining the convention because their cases are not “international” are watching the implementation process closely and with great interest. A convention regime that treats foreign parents better than Japanese parents is probably untenable, so perhaps the act will lead to changes in domestic family law too. Again, fingers crossed.

Colin P. A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. Send comments and ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.

  • Gordon Graham

    If a child is born and raised in Japan, then is uprooted by his American father to live in America where his Japanese mother finds it difficult to adjust, especially when said father dumps her shortly after moving to America, what is the child’s country of origin? If suing the mother for joint custody in an American court means the mother and child must stay in America where the woman has no family or friends for support wouldn’t it be natural for the mother to return to Japan with her child? In this case does the Hague recognize Japan as the country of origin? I can’t see how say 6 months in America would make it a child’s country of origin…It seems more honest to say 10 years in Japan would make it the country of origin. When an American court decides on joint custody, it means joint custody IN AMERICA, which is unrealistic and unfair in some cases…If a mother returns to her and her child’s country of origin, the mother is labeled a kidnapper. I hope the Hague considers how unfair and ridiculous this is…

    • CRC of Japan

      The Hague Convention is based on returning the child to the country of “habitual residence,” which is not clearly defined. I believe the designated Central Authority in the U.S. would have to make that determination for the situation you are outlining. Here is what Wikipedia says:

      The Hague Conference on Private International Law has deliberately refrained from offering a definition so that the concept may be flexible and adaptable to practical requirements. Thus, habitual residence may be interpreted differently in different Conflict situations. However, the core of the test will tend to be based on evidence of a long-term stay accompanied by other evidence of the individual’s personal and professional life to demonstrate the continuity of the connection between that person and the place of residence. To that extent, the intention of the individual may have some weight.

      • Gordon Graham

        It seems a little one-sided for the Central Authority in the U.S. to be deciding the fate of a Japanese child.

    • Ron NJ

      Shoe, other foot, etc. At least a foreign parent can remain in America post-divorce, unlike Japan.
      And why all the talk of Japanese women all the time? Remember, over 70% of marriages involving foreign nationals in Japan involve Japanese men and foreign women. If we are to truly take a neutral, non-accusatory stance here, we need to talk about Japanese or foreign *parents*, not “Japanese mothers” and “foreign husbands”. Tainting the debate by using loaded words does no one any good.

      • Gordon Graham

        I was referring to a well-publicised case that the Japan Times has covered extensively.

      • midnightbrewer

        I noticed your reference. What happened to that woman was horrible.

        In my mind, what the Hague Convention doesn’t fix is the home-field advantage problem, which is that judges will usually treat their own country as the preferable place for the child to remain.

    • Guest

      If two children are born and raised outside Japan (in Canada, for example, as were the two children of Murray Wood), then are uprooted by the Japanese mother to live in Japan when the *youngest* of the two children is already seven years old (as the two children of Murray Wood were), what is the children’s country of origin? If the Japanese mother had been living outside Japan for over a decade (as had Ayako Wood), wouldn’t it be *unnatural* for the mother to return to Japan with her children to file for custody of the children (as Ayako Wood did), particularly when the two parents had been raising the children over the previous three years under a joint custody arrangement reached in their habitual residence (that being Canada in the Wood case)? I can’t see how a Japanese court could justifying ignoring the Canadian ruling and instead granting the mother sole custody of the children six months later (as occurred in the Wood case). It seems more honest to say 10 years in Canada would make it the country of origin. When a Japanese court decides on custody of children who have never even lived in Japan, it is unrealistic and unfair. It is not only ridiculous, it is cruel.

    • Guest

      If two children are born and raised outside Japan (in Canada, for example, as were the two children of Murray Wood), then are uprooted by the Japanese mother to live in Japan when the *youngest* of the two children is already seven years old (as the two children of Murray Wood were), what is the children’s country of origin? If the Japanese mother had been living outside Japan for over a decade (as had Ayako Wood), wouldn’t it be *unnatural* for the mother to return to Japan with her children to file for custody of the children (as Ayako Wood did), particularly when the two parents had been raising the children over the previous three years under a joint custody arrangement reached in their habitual residence (that being Canada in the Wood case)? I can’t see how a Japanese court could justifying ignoring the Canadian ruling and instead granting the mother sole custody of the children six months later as occurred in the Wood case). It seems more honest to say 10 years in Canada would make it the country of origin. When a Japanese court encroaches on the custody of children who have never even lived in Japan several years after custody has already been determined by a court in the habitual residence of the parents and children, it is not only ridiculous, it is cruel.

      • Gordon Graham

        I would have to agree with you in the Wood case. Canada is clearly the country of origin. What about the case I cited?

      • paul

        It would be possible for the child to come and go between the two countries if the Convention were properly inforced by the countries of BOTH countries.
        The trouble is that Japanese courts haven’t which means non-Japanese parents are reluctant to have their kids step on Japanese soil on the strong chance they may NEVER come back.
        Also there is the systematic idea that ONLY one parent gets access. The article does not address this at all. This is a problem which Japanese couples face.

      • Gordon Graham

        In the case I mentioned above. The Japanese mother wasn’t allowed to take her children to Japan.

      • bwprager123

        “In the case I mentioned above. The Japanese mother wasn’t allowed to take her children to Japan.”
        Because she repeatedly threatened to abduct them, and because Japan condones child abduction. IN the end, she managed to abduct them by repeatedly lying to the judges in the US. But for a time, she was inhibited from doing so by court order. If Japan did not routinely abduct children, then people would be free to enter and leave the country with children. There would not be the necessity of prevention of abduction.

        As if we all didn’t already know this!

      • Gordon Graham

        The father, himself was detained for trying to abduct his kids and take them back to America. Highlighting a key problem with the convention. That being when two countries court decisions are at variance with each other it makes criminals out of the parents. Certainly family law in Japan needs to be amended to allow equal access to both parents. That said, joint custody in America means exactly that IN AMERICA. Having joint custody across the Pacific ocean seems impractical at best. Especially for those who can’t afford a $2000 return air ticket every school holiday. So then the question becomes which is the child’s country of origin…The one in which the child was born and spent all but 6 months of his or her life…Or the one in which the parent sues for custody? In the case stated above, the father duped the mother into moving to America whereupon he immediately dumped her for his lover, then just as quickly took his wife to court to sue for custody of the kids. Essentially, waiting until he got the home-court advantage before springing his intentions on his wife who was now faced with having to live in a foreign country alone, with no family or friends and having to rely on the man who had deceived her for support. That she lied to a court that refused to let her take her kids HOME is understandable. She’d been lied to all along by the person she trusted. Why she would trust a person who would gamble his kids for a lover is beyond me. But what is clear is women (and children) need to be protected against a play like this.

      • Gordon Graham

        In the case stated above, the mother was not allowed to take her children to Japan. I agree that there needs to be amendments to family law in Japan, to allow fathers access to their children or rather children access to their fathers.

  • Andreas Moser

    Good luck!

  • Henro 88

    My question is, and has always been: since when is the Japanese government so concerned about abusive spouses?

    They dragged their feet for years saying they need to protect Japanese people from abusive foreign spouses, without ever addressing the elephant in the room: plenty of Japanese spouses are abusive, and Japanese cops often do little to nothing about it. I know plenty of people who have been personally affected by J-cops’ indifference to spousal abuse.

    If they are so concerned about spousal abuse, why are they focusing only on hypothetical abuse from foreign spouses? Why is this conversation not followed by a conversation on police indifference to spousal abuse? If the lawmakers were being sincere in their concern, they would say something more like, “What if the foreign spouse is abusive? We already do too little to care for abused spouses in this country.”

    I’ve yet to hear such a mea culpa accompany assertions that foreigners are abusive, so from where I’m standing, this entire conversation is bigoted at its core.

    • Gordon Graham

      At least a Japanese woman has a family she can turn to in Japan if she is victim to abuse. Where can she turn to in a foreign country where she can’t speak the language, has no support system in terms of friends and family and often times is totally dependent on her abusive husband financially? I’m sure the Japanese government has had to pick up the pieces of its fair share of international marriage disasters and is basing its decisions accordingly.

      • Henro 88

        You’ve missed my point entirely.

        The Japanese government is not concerned about Japanese men who abuse their spouses or Japanese women who abuse. You see it in the news EVERY DAY: another mother or father who has killed their child, or a stalker who kills his ex-girlfriend, or just…it goes on and on. Teachers abusing children. Children killing themselves because the bullying is so bad.

        If they are so concerned about spousal abuse that they can’t sign this treaty, where is their massive movement to fix THOSE problems? Where is the support for families and parents? Where are the shelters for abused women? When are they going make some arrests and clean up the education system of all its abusive teachers?

        They aren’t doing much to deal with spousal abuse – or any kind of abuse – here in Japan, but the second we start talking about foreign spouses, oh my gah! We have to deal with spousal abuse, because foreign spouses are SO ABUSIVE!

        Again, you missed my point entirely. They just don’t want to sign the treaty, and they’re going to use their prejudices to justify it. They aren’t “basing [their] decisions accordingly.” They are just making things up and making excuses.

      • Gordon Graham

        I think you may want to read the article again…They’ve signed the treaty.

      • Ron NJ

        Lot of good signing it does when you give yourself various loopholes to give your citizens custody by classifying verbal arguments and such as domestic violence – see Colin P A Jones’ articles on the issue on this very website.
        I’ll believe the Japanese government is sincere when they not only sign the treaty but enact *meaningful and fair* legislation that isn’t wholly lopsided and only interested in protecting Japanese spouses and citizens, but rather has the children and their best interests at heart.

      • Gordon Graham

        By loopholes I think you mean amendments, amendments that are set in place by a government who has been given the responsibility of protecting the people it represents. Again, my original point being is it fair for an American court to decide the country of origin to be America when a child has spent less than a year there while he or she was born and raised for more than 10 years in Japan, as was the case of a well-publicised story in the pages of the Japan times. What is the country of origin in that case?

      • paul

        You check out the difference between what is written in Japanese law and how it is applied. It is stated in Japanese textbooks with regards to human rights “Japanese courts are not proactive with their application of the constitution”.
        It may look good that the country has signed the Convention but this is just window dressing. The big question as the article implies is as to how the courts act and given their past actions one cannot help but being VERY synical and pessimistic.
        Don’t count your chickens til they’re hatched.

      • Gordon Graham

        I see in the news about 5 times a year at most where a child has committed suicide due to bullying…What’s with the hyperbole to prove a point?

      • Henro 88

        Yes, because the five kids in the news are the ONLY kids who do it. It never happens with other kids who don’t end up on the news.

        And don’t come to me acting like five kids a year is a small number. One child per year is too many and you know it. Or are you a sociopath who thinks it’s fine and dandy for kids to be bullied to death, as long as they keep the numbers low? And you know as well as I do that those five kids aren’t a fluke – they aren’t a random thing. It’s systemic. Bullying is not a bug of Japanese culture – it’s a feature. For every five you see in the news, how many do you think DON’T make the news?

        It is not “hyperbole to prove a point,” which again shows that you miss the point entirely. I gave multiple examples, not just that one. It’s not hyperbole – it’s simply mentioning something without going into detail. Do you want me to sit here and write up a list of all the times it’s happened? Or can I just say, “Children are bullied to the point that they kill themselves” as a general statement and have you understand it for what it is: a single example among others.

        I’m not hyperbolic; you’re splitting hairs. God damn, do I have to be 100% accurate with everything I say and cite academic papers, or can you just take my statements at face value? Some kids are bullied to death in Japan. I don’t know how many and you don’t either.

        And they signed the treaty, but read the article again – they’re going to have to write a whole new legal code for it, and it will take time, and lord knows if they’ll even enforce it anyway. So, yes, they signed it, but they haven’t done anything to address the glaring racism in their attitudes – and so what if they sign it? They’re still not doing anything about domestic violence within Japan. It doesn’t matter if they sign the treaty or not – the hypocrisy remains: they didn’t want to sign the treaty because they claimed to be against domestic violence – yet, even after signing the treaty……..what are they doing about domestic violence???? So are they going to sign this treaty and scrutinize foreign spouses for domestic violence while doing nothing about domestic violence in their own country? Or are they going to sign this treaty and then just…forget about all their concerns.

        They made a big stink about how they were so concerned about domestic violence…are they going to just drop that now that they’ve signed the treaty? Where did that concern go now that they’ve signed the treaty? Are they still worried about it? Or are they done with it? Were they ever honestly concerned about domestic violence, or was it just a made up excuse?

      • Gordon Graham

        Of course, I think one is too many. However, you’re making it sound like violence in Japan is more rampant than it is (have you picked up a paper from London or New York recently?…remember the population of the Tokyo area is 30,000,000). Also, you’re making it sound as though bullying is an epidemic particular to Japan. What is the bullying problem like in say America or Canada? There have been quite a few highly publicised cases coming out of those countries, too. Do you know anything about the social welfare system in Japan? You say “they’re” doing nothing about domestic violence. I happen to know that’s not true. Perhaps your bitterness is against the Japanese in general? The vitriolic tone of your post would seem to suggest as much.

      • Henro 88

        “you’re making it sound as though bullying is an epidemic particular
        to Japan.” No, I’m not. I never said it was unique to Japan. And who cares what bullying is like in America? It has literally nothing to do with Japan, and comparing one culture with another is not the ONLY way to discuss that culture. Not every conversation about culture has to be comparative. Comparing Japan to America doesn’t automatically make you not-racist. Grow up.

        “making it sound like violence in Japan is more rampant than it is”
        Japan being generally safe doesn’t mean it doesn’t have violence. Again, are you implying that just a little violence is ok? Who CARES how much violence Japan has compared to other countries?? It doesn’t change the fact that the violence that DOES happen…happens. I said that I read those types (plural) of news stories every day because…I DO see those stories every damn day. I frankly do not know nor care how they stack up to other countries, I only know how I feel about the ones I see.

        “The vitriolic tone of your post would seem to suggest as much.” You keep reading things into my words that I’m not saying, nor am I implying. My vitriol is aimed at legislators who lie and say things that I consider racist. What tone should I take? And so far, the only people aside from those legislators I’ve mentioned…are criminals. So, what? You’re saying that my vitriolic tone towards racists and criminals suggests that I hate an entire country? Um…no. Because, see, not all Japanese people are racists and criminals! I have no trouble differentiating between regular Japanese folk and asshole Japanese folk.

        Just to let you know: the opposite of racism isn’t a constant stream of praise. It’s ok to point out when something is wrong with a culture, even if it’s not yours.
        You seem to have an extremely immature understanding of culture. It’s entirely possible to be overly positive about a culture and end up being extremely racist, so accusing someone of bitterness and vitriol doesn’t automatically give you the moral high ground.

        In fact, I have completely lost track of what you were trying to say other than to split hairs about everything I say for no reason. Damn it.

      • Gordon Graham

        I believe I was responding to your rant about violence in Japan. “Men abusing women, women who abuse. You see it EVERY DAY!:another mother or father has killed their child, a stalker has killed his ex-girlfriend…it goes on and on. Teachers abusing children. Children killing themselves because the bullying is so bad…Bullying is not a bug of Japan it’s a feature”. I was calling you on your hyperbolic vitriol.

      • Gordon Graham

        Perhaps they’re taking their time with it because it needs to be amended so that it may be more justly applied to cases like the one I cited above.

      • Henro 88

        “I was calling you on your hyperbolic vitriol.”

        I already answered that accusation. And, again, I was neither being hyperbolic nor was I vitriolic. Again, I was talking about criminals – violent, depraved criminals. What tone should I take? Hyperbole? Do you know what news stories I read every day? I do, in fact, read news stories like that every day.

        Please stop splitting hairs, repeating yourself and wasting everyone’s time.

      • Gordon Graham

        Criminals? Oh…I see. I thought you said men, women, teachers and children…

      • Henro 88

        …oh, ok, sorry. I forgot that you’re going to split every possible hair here.

        I meant to say “I am specifically referring to men, women, children and teachers who commit crimes and therefore are criminals.” There, is that better?

      • Ben

        there are all kinds of support systems in most countries special provided in a very wide variety of languages.

      • Gordon Graham

        I was referring to the emotional support of family and friends. A woman who has just been dumped by a man in a foreign country where she has no friends or family and doesn’t speak the language is going to need much more than assistance filling out welfare forms.

      • Ron NJ

        A *person* who has been dumped by *their spouse* in a foreign country where *they* have no friends or family and doesn’t speak the language is going to need much more than assistance filling out welfare forms.
        If you’re going to make an argument at least make it without using sexist language. Men suffer abuse as well, and perhaps worse than male on female abuse, female on male abuse is not only often overlooked, but often ridiculed as well, resulting in a culture of shame and victim blaming.

      • Gordon Graham

        Again, I was referring to a specific case that has been well-publicized in the Japan Times.

  • Ben

    it seems to me that a glaring hole will exist – exactly what japan will regard as constituting grounds for refusing a child should be returned. remember that in this country ignoring one’s spouse is classed as domestic violence, so it seems completely feasible that anyone will be able to make up any minor excuse to have the behavior rule invoked and children get kept in japan just as they are now to avoid such atrocities as languages other than japanese being spoken in their vicinity.

  • bwprager123

    Repetitive trolling in the comments below this editorial aside, the Japanese have a record and history from which it is not nearly so difficult to discern the intentions of the Japanese government as all that. Judges worldwide are still far too little informed about the mass abduction of children that the Japanese state supports. Those family court judges who have learned or been taught in the course of hearings regarding the withdrawal of passports and travel privileges from Japanese parents are (and should be) forced to act very firmly to prevent international abduction because that is the practice condoned in Japanese family court. No child is safe from Japan’s proffering of a haven for abduction of children and termination of parent child relationships; and the legislation that the Diet has approved to accompany the Hague treaty – a treaty on the “civil”, not the criminal aspects of child abduction, leave us not forget – assures that that is not expected to change. What has been apparent throughout the discussion of how the Hague is to be understood in Japan is that the “reservations” (or “amendments” as some here are calling them) amount to undermining the treaty and the obligations it is designed to infer to return abducted children to their families. Japan will continue to hold custody hearings on abducted children in Japanese courts to determine who Japanese judges (and untrained mediators!!) think is the most fit parent, acting on their gender and ethnic biases as they have always done; this means, clearly, that the outcome of such cases will be unaltered from their current course, and kidnapping children will continue to be masked as “custody determination” in Japan.
    Something MUCH harder and firmer must take place before Japanese people will effectively resist their government’s support of the destruction of families and abuse and violation of children and parents.

    What each and every country can and should do, is to enact laws to completely prevent children from being brought into Japan from outside. No child is safe from this trauma and tragedy; not yet.