Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Foreign Parents still Suffer
Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The issue of child abduction is international and based on the growing nature of mixed ethnic marriages, then it is an issue that needs addressing with immediate effect. This article is focused on Japan and how the ratification of the Hague Convention (Child Abduction) is still being restrained by domestic law, enforcement powers, individual cases dealt with differently, limitations of this convention, and the continuing dependence on the goodwill of the abductor for many aggrieved parents. Therefore, while some progress was made for a minority of international parents seeking their rights fulfilled, the majority still face enormous obstacles and feel betrayed and at a loss.
Of course, each case is different and the same applies to the varying degree of parental alienation syndrome. Yet, the feeling of desperation and becoming more distant is a sad reality. Equally important, forgotten grandparents, relatives, and friends suffer greatly when a child or children are taken away. Hence, while the obvious focus is on the alienated parent, the reality is that many individuals suffer from enormous stress and anxiety – and the same applies to putting internal stresses on relationships.
Turning back to Japan ratifying the Hague Convention, it is apparent that many problems remain. Given this reality, in the three years following the signature, it is known that only 18 cases have resulted in children being returned out of 68 legal requests. Alarmingly, while 19 of these cases are currently ongoing, 31 other cases have either been dismissed or settlements specify the non-return of abducted children. In other words, some parents now have little redress to law and know that cultural and linguistic alienation will increase parental alienation syndrome, to the point of permanent damage. After all, not only is child abduction being rewarded but equally disturbing all notions of basic custody rights are being ignored.
Of course, for some grandparents of abducted children and parents that may suffer from health issues, then the clock is ticking beyond any hope. The stress of this is unimaginable and how sad that lawful people are being denied the most basics of human rights – this is the right to see their own children and have legal documents honored to the full.
The National Post (Canada News) reported last year, “The Canadian father (Tim Terstege) is far from alone in trying to navigate a seemingly impenetrable and hostile Japanese system sometimes described as a black hole for children. Figures indicate dozens of Canadians — mostly fathers — are among thousands of foreigners faced with the gut-wrenching loss of their children in Japan. Some parents are reported to have killed themselves in despair. Others have ended up in jail after trying to snatch back their children.”
It is known that approximately 400 children from America were abducted by Japanese parents between 1994 and 2015, the result being virtually no address in Japanese law. Hence, it was hoped that ratification of the Hague Convention would herald a new beginning – even if bumps remained. Yet, not only is the number of cases low given the numbers of children abducted to Japan; but major stumbling blocks – and the end of the road for many failed cases, is also an ongoing reality for international parents caught up in this endless nightmare. Likewise, international parents married to Japanese spouses in this nation suffer from domestic courts based on issues outside of parenthood.
Parental alienation, cultural estrangement, linguistic issues, parental manipulation by the abductee, and other important areas, are all magnified by time and distance. Therefore, for many left behind parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends of children abducted, the ticking clock of injustice is relentless and permanent.
Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group