Pressure Builds on Japan to Stop Parental Abduction of Children

Here’s a fine piece by Dr. Amy Savoie (Japan Times, 11/9/10).  It’s about international child abduction by parents to Japan.  She’s the wife of Christopher Savoie about whom I’ve written before. 

Back in August of last year, Christopher’s ex-wife abducted his children from the United States to Japan where they remain.  Christopher went to Japan to try to get them back, but to no avail.  He was arrested and eventually released.  Like Jeffery Morehouse, whose story I told recently, the chances of his ever having custody of his kids are next to nil.

That’s because Japan has so far refused to sign and ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  That, plus the fact that fathers have essentially no parental rights in Japan following divorce, makes Japan a safe-haven for Japanese mothers the world over.  If they want to deny their children a relationship with their father, the Japanese government is waiting with open arms.

In every country that has signed the convention, parental child abductors are considered criminals; in the United States, they’re felons.  Japan shields them from any and all legal accountability, and that’s despite the fact that parental child abduction has been called child abuse by mental health professionals who study the phenomenon.

Now Dr. Savoie writes,

In October, envoys of 11 nations plus the European Union (comprised of 27 countries) told Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida that they believe children should grow up while keeping in touch with both their parents, and that Japan should sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides rules and procedures for the return of abducted children. Japan is “considering the matter.”

She then takes down the many myths and excuses Japanes politicians continue to hide behind in refusing to bring their country in line with the laws and practices of the rest of the industrialized world.

One of Japan’s favorite myths, proffered to justify parental kidnapping, is that joint custody is strictly an undesirable “Western value,” and therefore Japan should not have to capitulate by adopting such a peculiar foreign practice. However, since Japan’s Asian neighbors — Taiwan, South Korea and China — as well as other non-Western countries, such as Nigeria and countless others, recognize joint custody and also routinely enforce U.S. and other valid custody orders for joint-parenting time, this “Western value” assertion falls flat on its face.

Furthermore, loving one’s children and wanting to spend time with them is most certainly not just a “Western” value.

Dr. Savoie then skewers five pet excuses raised by Japanese politicians in defense of their indefensible laws.  Among them are the notion that fathers don’t care about their children, so it’s acceptable for Mom to take them to Japan.  Another is that the mothers are just fleeing domestic violence, to which Savoie responds,

This is an offensive, racist generalization that tries to portray all foreign males as aggressive, bullying barbarians. In fact, it is often the abductor who is the abuser, absconding with the children so that he/she can continue to exert an abnormal level of control over the kids without the inconvenience of having to deal with an ex-spouse’s involvement. The United Nations Convention on Child Rights has held that parental child abduction is child abuse, and this has been corroborated by child psychology experts from many countries.

Just so.

Rather than defend this behavior, Japan should realize that it is bad for its international reputation to appear to condone lying, committing perjury and perpetrating fraud upon a court of law (whether the court is in the U.S., Australia, Colombia, France or any of the other countries whose envoys appealed to the Justice Ministry last month).

The Japanese government should not excuse and disregard its citizens’ violations of law simply because the violations occurred in some other country. Neither is it in Japan’s interest to establish the precedent that someone can sign a contract (divorce contract or otherwise) and, after collecting a substantial sum of money from the other party, flee from the contractual obligations by escaping to Japan and hiding behind the veil of “cultural differences.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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