While Japan may promote itself as the country of karaoke, sumo wrestling and bonsai gardens, its darkest secret is that it is a haven for child abductors.
Japan, together with Russia, are the only G8 countries that have not embraced the international treaty on child abduction known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction.
Hundreds of children, from dozen of countries, are scuttled away from their homes and taken by their Japanese parent to Japan where they are welcomed with open arms.
The Japanese Courts do not recognize joint custody and they also refuse to enforce custody orders pronounced in other jurisdictions.
The Canadian Government in a 2008 Report indicated that 29 children from Canada were the victims of unresolved abduction cases. In Australia 13 children have been spirited to Japan but the Australian Government acknowledges their reporting system is unreliable and many abductions go unreported. In France the number is 35.
In the United States in 2009 there were 79 cases involving 100 children and the Government candidly admits that no child has been returned through the court process or through diplomatic channels.
Tragedies play out every day because of Japan’s law and policy. Some of the more high profile cases include:
Ms. Castellanos’ Japanese husband abducted their two year old daughter from Cuba to Japan. Despite a Cuban custody order in her favour, the Japanese courts have not returned the child and recently Japan refused to extend Ms. Castellano’s visa so that she is unable to remain in Japan to pursue her case or see her child.
Mr. Wong’s wife and the Japanese mother of his child, died from cancer. To keep his promise to his wife, he moved with his daughter to Japan to take care of his wife’s elderly parents. Upon his arrival, his wife’s parents accused him of sexually abusing their granddaughter and obtained a custody order. Mr. Wong denies these trumped up charges but has not seen his child since the custody order was granted in 2007.
Toland, a United States Navy Commander was stationed at a base in Japan where he married a Japanese woman and had a child with her. His wife left the base in 2003 with their daughter when she was nine months old and on the advice of a naval lawyer he entered into mediation with his spouse. Unfortunately, this step was characterized by the Japanese court as agreeing to allow the Japanese justice system to take jurisdiction of the case, even though servicemen and their dependents are governed by American law.
Their divorce was finalized in Japan and the court gave custody of the girl to his wife and declined to provide access to Mr. Toland.
In 2007 Toland’s ex-wife committed suicide and her mother took custody of the now seven year old girl.
Toland has not seen his daughter since 2003 and says he has spent over $200,000.00, both in the US and Japan to recover his daughter.
Parental child abduction is not only a crime, it is a form of child abuse. Shame on the Japanese authorities for allowing this to continue.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang