Every Child

Has Two Parents

 
 

Children's Rights Issues In Japan

 

After reading about the issues below, see our Proposed Remedies page for the changes we would like to see.

NOTE: Although the issues described here are still accurate, much more detail and an expanded list now exists.  This page will soon be updated with the new issues and details.  But until then, please see the following pages for some of the new information.

  1. Child Abduction (same issues as this page)

  2. Child Custody (many new issues, details and proposed solutions)

  3. Child Visitation (many new issues, details and proposed solutions)

  4. Divorce (many new issues, details and proposed solutions)

  5. Adoption (many new issues, details and proposed solutions)

  6. Discrimination (many new issues and details)

You may also want to review the "Critique of Japan's Second Periodic Report to United Nations on Convention on the Rights of the Child (CoRC)" which was submitted by a coalition of NGOs.  This lengthy document describes many violations of children's rights in Japan, and the introductory section contains a summary.

Child Abduction to Japan (General Discrimination Against Foreign Parents)  

There are many cases of a non-Japanese parent having a custody order in another country, and the Japanese parent abducting the child to Japan. Once this happens, the Japanese courts will not recognize these orders.  They will not honor arrest warrants on child kidnapping from other countries nor from INTERPOL. The custodial parent can pursue this in Japanese court, but court cases in Japan can take years.  Even after several years, the final argument often ends up being that the child is now acclimated to Japan, so should not be removed from the country.  The result is that some Japanese feel free to abduct their child and run back to Japan where they will be protected from legal challenges by the non-Japanese parent who has legal custody in a foreign country.  More information and documentation here.

  1. Japan has not ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

  2. Japan does not have laws which allow enforcement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

  3. Japan does not enforce child custody orders from foreign countries.

  4. Parental kidnapping is not considered a crime in Japan. 

  5. Japan does not honor extradition requests for crimes involving a non-custodial Japanese parent abducting their child back to Japan.

Legal Abduction To Japan (Forced Retention of Children and Transport To Japan)

In cases, where a custody order has not been issued by another country, a Japanese parent may make a visit to Japan with the child and simply retain the child in Japan, without the other parent's approval.  This is in violation of the child's right to its habitual country of residence.   The result is often that the left-behind parent goes to court in their home country to get legal custody.  From then, this problem becomes similar to the "Child Abductions to Japan" and we hence refer to this situation as "Legal Abduction To Japan."   More information and documentation here.

Legal Domestic Abduction (Forced Retention of Children In Japan)

When a married couple is living together in Japan, one parent may suddenly just leave with the children. They may also go to a relative's home or they may go into hiding. Since while married, both parents have shared custody, this is legal.  But due to Antiquated Child Custody Laws, Antiquated Child Visitation Laws, and the reluctance of police and the courts to get involved, possession of the children becomes permanent.  This permanence is usually recognized in subsequent divorce proceedings, and since visitation is un-enforceable, the "other" parent loses access to their children.  Because the result is generally the same as International Parental Abduction, we refer to this situation as "Legal Abduction In Japan."   More information and documentation here.

Antiquated Child Custody Laws

Among Japanese couples, child custody, most often goes to the mother if a marriage ends. There are cases where the man gets custody, as in Prime Minister Koizumi's case, and often has a relative raise them.  There is no legal provision for joint (shared) custody.  Finally, should the custodial parent die or become incapacitated, other Japanese family members generally are given custody of the child rather than the foreign biological parent. More information and documentation here.

Lack Of Adequate Child Visitation Laws

There is no provision for visitation rights under the Japanese Civil Code.  Even if it is specified by a Japanese court, it is incredibly limited, usually only a couple hours per month.  The responsibility to ensure regular visitation is a direct consequence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Japan in its entirety on May 22nd 1994.  Article nine of this treaty obligates Japan to "Respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal contact with both parents on a regular basis."  More information and documentation here.

Unenforceable Child Visitation Laws

If the non-custodial parent can get a Japanese court to grant visitation rights, its typically only a couple hours a month. But even then, if the custodial parent is not cooperative, neither the police nor the courts will effectively enforce these rights.  The only option is to go back to court again and again.  The Family Courts have no way to enforce their judgments. The responsibility to ensure regular visitation is a direct consequence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Japan in its entirety on May 22nd 1994.  Article nine of this treaty obligates Japan to "Respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal contact with both parents on a regular basis."  More information and documentation here.

Physical and Emotional Child and Spouse Abuse Is Ignored as a Factor in Custody Decisions

It has been reported that police ignore this as do courts when deciding on custody.  (This claim is believed true, but is tentative and under investigation to find and document evidence.)  More information and documentation here.

Domestic Violence By A Japanese Spouse Is Supported In A Family With Children

These give a Japanese spouse so much power over a foreign spouse that it is very difficult for the foreign spouse to report even severe physical abuse due to fear of losing access to a child.  First, the absence of a "non-custodial parent of Japanese child" visa category means that must depend on the Japanese spouse to be their guarantor for a spouse visa in order to stay in Japan.  This means that an abusive Japanese spouse can threaten not to be the guarantor if the spouse reports abuse to the police.  Even if the spouse reports them at the beginning of a three year spouse visa, the Japanese spouse and a very very slow legal system can easily keep the child away for 3 years. After this, the foreign spouse must leave the country and can no longer fight back nor be with the child.  So if the Japanese spouse refuses to act as a guarantor, then the non-Japanese spouse may be put in a position of choosing whether or not to A) overstay in Japan illegally without a visa.  B) leave Japan legally and be separated from their child.  C) Abduct the child of of Japan.  Second, a Japanese spouse nearly always gets child custody in a divorce. So reporting abuse will likely mean losing custody of the child.  Finally, Japanese law enforcement and courts will not enforce visitation if a Japanese spouse runs away with a child. So reporting abuse will likely mean never being able to see the child again.  These factors together give enormous power to an abusive Japanese spouse, promote inequality in the family, and in effect support a system of domestic violence.  More information and documentation here.

Discrimination Against Helping Non-Japanese Locate Hidden Children

A non-Japanese parent can run into many brick walls when trying to find their child who has been abducted to and hidden in Japan.  The police will say it is a "family matter" and will not file a missing persons report as would commonly be done in other countries.  Schools, local city offices, Ministry of Health, etc. will also not provide information to non-Japanese parents, citing the child's "privacy rights."  Making matters even more complicated, the abducting parent will frequently list themselves and their children under fraudulent names and addresses.  Private investigators are not licensed in Japan, and there are some who enrich themselves at the searching parent's expense, giving them false hope but no results.  Parents can easily use up many years spinning their wheels and spending many thousands of dollars searching for their children in Japan without ever finding them.   (Although this could potentially happen to Japanese also, we believe that government agencies, local governments, police and courts act this way particularly when a non-Japanese is involved, and is hence discrimination. We are investigating further and attempting to gather evidence.)  More information and documentation here.

Discrimination Against Non-Japanese In Granting Child Custody

There is a widely held perception that the courts are strongly racially biased in favor of Japanese nationals, regardless of the inappropriateness for custody or danger to the child. Although the mother generally gets custody when both parents are Japanese, when one parent is non-Japanese, we believe that the Japanese gets custody, regardless of whether they are a father or a mother.  Statistically, in the case where the foreign parent is a father, it is generally a Caucasian father, but in the case where the foreign parent is a mother, it is typically an Asian mother.  It is almost unheard of for custody to be given to a foreign parent in a contested custody case in Japan.  There are also anecdotal reports of courts ignoring threats of violence from the Japanese parent rather than give custody to the non-Japanese.  (We believe that this claim is true, but it is tentative and under investigation to try to find and document evidence.)  More information and documentation here.

Discrimination Against Non-Japanese In Granting Restraining Orders

There are also reports of prejudice in issuing restraining orders against a foreign parent. (This claim is very tentative and under investigation to try to find and document evidence.) More information and documentation here.

Discrimination Against Non-Japanese By Not Having A Visa Allowing Them To Remain In Japan Long Term To Be With Their Children

A non-Japanese needs a visa to enter and stay in Japan to see their child.  The Japanese parent can complain and make it difficult for a non-Japanese citizen to re-enter later to see a child, even if they have court ordered visitation rights.   There *may* be a law or regulation that makes it easy for a non-Japanese custodial parent to get a long term visa or even permanent residency.  But since this almost never happens, it is largely irrelevant.  There is no visa that specifically allows a non-custodial parent to live and work in Japan long term.  (Not having this type of visa can also encourage foreign parents to re-abduct the child out of Japan.)  More information and documentation here.

Discrimination Against Visas Allowing A Non-Japanese To Remain In Japan To Continue Legal Actions Against A Japanese Parent

The most basic issue is that a non-Japanese needs to be able to stay in the country long enough to pursue legal action for custody or visitation rights.  Since this can takes years in Japanese courts, this requires the ability to work and earn a living.  Yet there is no visa status that allows this.   There have also been cases where the Japanese parent has contacted and "discouraged" employers who might otherwise hire the non-Japanese citizen legally.  (Not having this type of visa can also encourage foreign parents to re-abduct the child out of Japan.  It can also encourage foreign parents to stay or work in Japan illegally.) More information and documentation here.

Rights of Natural Parents are Taken Away in Adoption and Changes of Custody Actions

The laws on "adoption" in Japan are confusing, but it appears that it is too easy for a Japanese parent to allow adoption of a child by another Japanese, for example parents, a new spouse or even a friend without permission or even notification of other natural parent's rights.  This also appears to be true for custody changes.  If the custodial parent dies or decides they no longer want to take care of the child, relatives are often given custody without the permission or knowledge of the other natural parent.  Currently, according to Japanese law, an objecting parent only has 6 months to find and correct problems, regardless of whether they were even notified in the first place.     More information and documentation here.

General Discrimination Against Non-Japanese in Japan

The Government of Japan (GOJ) signed The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1979, then the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1995 (effected January 14, 1996). Under the CERD, Japan promised to take measures (including legislation) at all levels of government to eliminate racial discrimination 'without delay.'  Despite this, Japan to this day remains the only developed country without any form of a law at any level outlawing discrimination by race." For an excellent discussion (including the previous quoted summary) and an introduction to related current events, see www.debito.org (cached copy) web site, in particular here.  Without laws to protect against discrimination in general, discrimination in Children's Rights Issues cannot be effectively fought or prevented.  More information and documentation here.

Discrimination Against Fathers of Children Born Out of Wedlock Who Have No Default Custodial Rights

According to Japanese Civil Code, Article 819, "The parental power over a child recognized by its father [i.e. born out of wedlock but legally acknowledged] shall be exercised by its father, if and only if the father and the mother determine the father to have the parental power by their agreement."  This goes against Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution, which states "All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.Article 24 further emphasizes that "With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes." It is also contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.




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