The meeting began with Masako explaining who we were and introducing the LBPJ & APFS joint policy statement. She talked about the need for Japan to establish a system of joint custody and indicated that we knew that the Diet was about to make changes to the current family law system. Mr. Eda interjected to say that they had discussed proposals for change to the family laws in order to accede to the Hague Convention. We said that we understood that. Masako said that it was our opinion that in conjunction with signing the Hague Convention, Japan should also change to a joint custody system. Takeuchi restated that opinion. Takeuchi also stated that there are many children who cannot see their non-custodial parent at all under the current system of family law. In order to protect the rights of non-custodial parents and the human rights of children, Japan needs to adopt a joint custody system.
Mr. Eda spoke about the many supporters of the current “traditional” Japanese system, and of the Japanese system’s design and its desire to prevent “confusion” in the children. (Editors note: this really pissed me off)
I responded that most of the world’s countries and people view the denial of access for a child to either one of his/her parents is against their fundamental human rights and constitutes child abuse. I spoke about the current system promoting and contributing to domestic and international child abductions. I spoke to the recent statement submitted in writing by the Embassy of Canada in October on behalf of six nations (Canada, USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and France) and its content stating that the interim proposals for legislation discussed in 2011, that he referred to earlier, deviate from the convention.
I stated that when Japan signs the Hague Convention it must abide by it in letter, spirit and intent. Loopholes must not be woven into the legislation they are preparing for accession. I spoke about Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Campbell’s recent statements regarding compliant accession to the Hague and that Japan address outstanding cases immediately. I related all of my statements to the fact that Japan needs to adopt a system of joint custody with joint parental authority.
Mr. Eda’s reply was that it takes time to change a culture and a system within it.
I stipulated that the younger generation of Japanese people are more globalized and many, many of them are supportive of what we propose.
Mr. Eda acknowledged that to be true.
We discussed the current sole custody system and how the judicial branch of the GoJ has not moved forward with granting meaningful access to non-custodial parents.
Carlos asked, “What is the GoJ planning to do as far as changes to the law, as to how judges will award visitation and decide on…” Mr. Eda interjected “As you know, we have a rather sensitive system of (unheard)…3 government authorities, legislative, administrative and the courts. We don’t want to interfere in any sort of court action, especially in this case, the family court. I know a little bit about the family court because I used to be a judge in the family court, not domestic cases, but general cases.” (Ed note: What???) Eda continued, “The court is now…it’s rather awkward…we need to wait to have the courts include themselves by their own effort. But now, I think, even in the family court we have some decisions for the (non-custodial) parent to be allowed some sort of meaningful visitation.”
Masako, “I don’t think so…”
Mr. Eda, “In Kobe, (switches to Japanese)…”
Kato’s translation of Mr. Eda, “In court, in Kobe, in an international case there were some positive comments about visitation with the left behind parent. It will gradually happen.”
Masako and Mr. Eda talk back and forth in Japanese…
Takeuchi, in Japanese, asks about the fact that to deprive a child of one of their parents is against the human rights of the children (and parent). He asks about the fact that the current sole custody system and the removal of parent’s authority rights is against the human rights of both parent and child.
Mr. Eda, “What I promoted in the scrutiny of the law during the last committee is that the non-custodial parent is still the parent of the child. That the husband and wife might be separated but the relationship between the parent and child cannot be separated which is most important and I emphasized that point.”
I replied, “However, there is no enforcement mechanism in place so currently my wife, who abducted our children from Canada, can tell me: No, you are not allowed to see the children at all. You cannot speak to them on the phone or skype, NOTHING; And there is nothing I can do.”
Editor’s note: The next statements I made about my case will not be published here as I know that the Suzuki family is monitoring this blog.
Masako spoke to Mr. Eda about her case, in Japanese.
We requested Mr. Eda’s opinion on which other Diet members would be influential in the drafting of new legislation as we want to meet with them and speak to them about our push for joint custody. He made his suggestions of who to talk to.
We took photos. Mr. Eda asked if we were opposed to his using our images on his website.
This man is a very skillful politician. It was difficult for us to get a straight answer from him in either language. Having said that, he did state that he believes Japan should sign the Hague Convention and that as Justice Minister he met with many groups who were opposed to signing it. He said that he believed he was able to illustrate to them that it would be in Japan’s best interest to accede to the Hague Convention. I believe that Mr. Eda believes that a child should have access to both of his/her parents. I believe he is well intentioned but he is just one of 750 national politicians. I believe that this was a good opportunity to meet someone with considerable influence in the Diet and in his party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
I will continue to fight for the human rights of children and parents. I will continue to fight for meaningful, positive change in this country.