A growing number of foreigners in Japan oppose what they say, a little-known but deep-rooted system that enables one parent in a broken relationship to take the children away and prevent the others from visiting them.
The question of what the media in Japan and overseas refer to as “child abduction by parents” has recently received international attention, particularly in Europe, where documentaries about European fathers whose children were taken away by their Japanese wives were made.
The Japanese judicial system has attracted worldwide attention with the lengthy detention and subsequent flight of former auto executive director Carlos Ghosn in a system that critics have termed “hostage justice”.
Australian Scott McIntyre was the last foreigner to speak out against the alienation of separated parents from their children in Japan.
McIntyre was detained in Tokyo for 1½ months after going to his in-laws’ home to get information about his two children. He remains married, has no injunction against him, retains full parental rights, but has not been able to see his children since May when his wife went with them.
“I’m sitting here today and I don’t know if my children are alive or dead,” McIntyre said at a press conference Thursday, the day after he received a six-month suspended sentence.
He said he had made numerous inquiries to the police and his wife’s lawyers – the two are divorcing – to let him know if the children were safe, but they were ignored.
The woman’s legal representative, Jun Kajita, said he could not go into details, but there are some facts that are “inconsistent” in McIntyre’s claims.
“This will only change if Japanese parents take the floor,” said McIntyre, adding that he had received many letters of support from local parents who were suffering from the same misery. “Children should have access to both parents – it is a basic human right.”
There are no official statistics on how widespread the problem is. The non-profit organization Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion estimates that around 150,000 children in Japan lose contact with a parent each year because they have become estranged from the parents who are not looked after.
Although divorce is becoming more common in Japan – roughly one in three marriages ends in marriage – it is still stigmatized, and Japanese society generally accepts the estrangement of the non-honorary parent, mainly because there is no relationship after the divorce Custody there.
Many parents say there is a pattern for the problem: one day your spouse goes with the children. you go to the police and ask for help; They reject this on the grounds that it is a “family matter”. In some cases, a domestic violence lawsuit will be brought against you, recognized as fact, and never investigated. Your children’s school can also lock you out because the wishes of the parent living together – usually the mother – are undisputed.
Ministry of Justice officials said in the state parliament that kidnapping a child by a parent was a crime, but that it was up to the family courts to advise on individual cases.
When asked about the legality of one parent taking away a child without the other parent’s consent, a spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police said the agency “cannot generally state whether it is illegal”.
He said the police also could not generally say whether they had to respond to an alienated parent’s request to investigate a suspected child abduction.
“It’s a crazy system for everyone outside of Japan,” said opposition legislator Seiichi Kushida, who fought for a common custody system in the state parliament.
The plight of these parents last year prompted French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to express their concern for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Some Japanese and foreign parents have filed a complaint with the United Nations human rights organ.
“It is encouraging to see how much attention foreign parents pay to this issue,” said Kenjiro Hara, director of the convention on the rights of the child Japan, a nonprofit activist group.
“It is thanks to them that more and more Japanese feel encouraged to take action,” he said, noting that several class action lawsuits have been filed against the government requiring laws to help parents bring their children together.
LATEST NATIONAL STORIES
Japan, India hold joint coast guard drilling
The 18th such exercise between the two nations comes at a time when China …