Sometimes public opinion (or outdated research) holds more weight than facts. Too bad Japan is now considering joining a treaty that should be rehauled.
Japan has been under international pressure to join the child custody treaty, which would help resolve cases in which foreign parents are prevented from seeing their children in Japan after their marriages with Japanese nationals fail.
In 1980, an international treaty was designed to return children who had been abducted by a parent who moved to another country. Back then, the people drafting the treaty thought the typical abductor would be a noncustodial father skipping town with the kids, leaving mom with little recourse to try to get her children back. So what happens, three decades later, when research indicates that 68% of the abducting parents in cases under this treaty are mothers — and that many of them are fleeing abusive spouses?
The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, dubbed the Hague Convention after the place where it was finalized, has been adopted by 82 countries, which are expected to help return abducted children to their habitual residence within six weeks of a parent filing a petition. But Jeffrey Edleson and Taryn Lindhorst, lead researchers on a new study of Hague Convention cases, argue that the treaty is often used against women seeking safety for themselves — and for their children — from violent husbands. “We always thought that child abduction is a bad thing,” says Edleson, a professor of social work at the University of Minnesota. “But in some cases, mothers are taking children to protect them from greater harm.”
Consider writing a letter to the editor at the Japan Times – they’ve covered this issue