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2013年5月 1日 (水)

ハーグ条約 子供のために体制作り急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 1, 2013
Systems needed to help children of failed international marriages
ハーグ条約 子供のために体制作り急げ(4月30日付・読売社説)

Japan will finally join the international convention dealing with children taken to another country by a parent without the consent of the other parent after an international marriage breaks down. The government should expedite efforts to establish systems to support Japan's adherence to the convention.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to have Japan join the Hague Convention. As the House of Councillors is certain to approve the bill, there will be no legal obstacles to this country joining the convention.

Related bills specifying domestic judicial procedures are also likely to be passed into law shortly.

The convention stipulates that if a parent takes a child under the age of 16 back to his or her home country without the other parent's consent following the failure of an international marriage, the child should, in principle, be returned to the country of habitual residence if the other parent requests it within one year.

Many cases abroad

Among the Group of Eight major economies, Japan is the only country that has yet to join the convention.

The number of Japanese marrying foreigners is on the rise. There are about 100 cases in the United States in which Japanese parents have taken their children to Japan without their spouses' consent following the breakup of their marriages.

The issue has become a diplomatic problem, leading to mounting demands from the United States and European countries for Japan to quickly join the convention. Japan's move to join the convention has been rather slow.

By joining the convention, a Japanese parent can request the return to Japan of children taken by the other parent to his or her home country without the Japanese parent's consent.

As Japan had not signed the convention, there have been cases where Japanese parents had to leave their children behind when they returned to Japan. By joining the convention, this problem will be resolved.

Japan lagged other countries in joining the treaty primarily because of concerns over protecting the human rights of a large number of Japanese women who brought their children to Japan--without their spouses' consent--to escape violent foreign husbands.

Diet deliberations on the issue focused on what conditions were necessary to refuse a child's return, even when an appeal is made by a foreign spouse.

The convention stipulates that the return of a child can be refused when there is a grave risk that physical and mental harm could be inflicted on the child.

Related domestic bills specifying conditions for refusing the return of a child include cases in which a petitioner may use violence toward the mother, which would have an adverse impact on the child, as well as cases in which the petitioner may physically abuse a child.

Support needed abroad

The wording "have an adverse impact on the child" was added to the bill, because the convention is primarily aimed at the child's happiness. Yet it will be difficult to prove domestic violence has an adverse effect on a child.

Family courts in Tokyo and Osaka, which will accept such petitions, must make judgments after fully considering children's feelings.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has to put in place a support system abroad to assist Japanese in court cases involving parental rights, in line with the convention.

Some Japanese diplomatic establishments overseas have already set up consultation offices.

It is essential to painstakingly prepare proper responses, including the provision of a lawyer and an interpreter and cooperation with local organizations to assist victims of domestic violence.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 30, 2013)
(2013年4月30日01時17分  読売新聞)


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