Last autumn came the announcement that Japan, contrary to expectations, would not be ratifying the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("the Hague Abduction Convention")
Japan’s prospective membership of the Hague Convention club was much-anticipated and was believed universally to be long-overdue. The failure to ratify was felt particularly keenly in Australia, USA and Canada. There, because of patterns of migration and cross-cultural relationships, it is far more common than in the UK for a parent in a dispute about children to be a Japanese national.
The experience from those countries is not a happy one. Japan is described by parents affected by child abduction as a “haven for parental abduction” and a “black hole for child abduction”. Japan had, in the international arena, tried to defend its record of managing child abduction situations by saying it is protecting Japanese mothers and children from abusive husbands and fathers, respectively.
The reality, however, bore little correlation to that excuse, and appeared instead to be the scion of a system struggling to cope with the realities of contemporary family life.
Earlier today, the Japanese Times reported Japan's Foreign Minister's announcement that the newly elected government had resurrected steps to sign the Hague Abduction Convention.
"The government is intending to go through the necessary procedures for the early signing of the treaty," he told a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. "We will make our best efforts so that the early ratification of the convention will be achieved."
Asked about the time frame, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry confirmed his government is serious about taking action, after previous administrations avoided the issue for years.
Clinton said she hoped the Diet [the Japanese Parliament] would pass legislation on the accord during its next ordinary session, which is expected to kick off later this month.
|The Japanese Diet|
Even if work starts as soon as that, experience shows it is likely to be some time still before the philosophy that underpins the Hague Abduction Convention - that child abduction is inherently harmful and children should be returned to their country of origin if they are wrongfully taken or kept overseas - percolates through Japan's legal system to the extent it is properly implemented.
But I hope I'll be forgiven for quoting a Chinese philosopher in the circumstances: "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." At least once this first step is taken, Japan will be headed in the right direction.