The leadership of Left Behind Parents Japan met with Yoshinori Oguchi on Monday, January 16th, 2012. Mr. Oguchi is a member of the New Komeito party, the third largest political party represented in the Diet. He was a member of the MoFA committee who discussed modifying Japan’s civil code last fall, in order to sign The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
We presented our policy statement calling for joint custody, criminalization of parental child abduction, policy enforcement of family court orders, meaningful visitation for non-custodial parents, addition of a new visa category for parents of Japanese children to remain in Japan after losing spousal visa status and modification of domestic violence law in Japan to preclude false allegations with no empirical evidence.
We asked if the committee had completed their recommendations to the Ministry of Justice at this time. Mr. Oguchi’s response was that joint custody and the Hague Convention were closely related. Regarding joint custody, it is a huge hurdle to overcome. Regarding the Hague Convention, we are now preparing to accede due to the foreign pressure to do so, especially from the USA.
We asked if, in his opinion, joint custody was not going to move forward in this session of the Diet? His response was that there would be discussion of joint custody in the upcoming full Diet session.
When asked about current cases of international child abduction his response was that resolving current cases was “quite impossible”.
We asked if there was any plan whatsoever to resolve existing cases his response was that the government was discussing modifying Japanese domestic law and signing the Hague and that there were groups that were both for and against signing the Hague and that these groups will be listened to during the upcoming session of the Diet. (evasive)
When we asked about guaranteeing visitation to non-custodial parents Mr. Oguchi responded that he believed that visitation was important for the children. He added that in his opinion, visitation of the non-custodial parent was crucial to reducing child abuse. He stated that he believed that children of divorce should remain in contact with both parents and have the right to be educated by both parents. He stated that visitation of the non-custodial father was a concern due to the possibility of domestic violence. (Gender stereotyping – very concerning)
When Masako asked about the right to secure information about abducted children from governments, schools etc., Mr. Oguchi’s response was that he believed that this information was attainable currently. (completely inaccurate, it is not available to non-custodial parents.)
When asked (again) about resolving existing cases for foreign parents who have had their child abducted to Japan, Mr. Oguchi reiterated that existing cases of international abduction were not open for discussion and would not be considered. He said that MoFA and the MoJ had said it was “impossible”.
Masako pointed out that Japan was continuing to press North Korea to resolve cases of abduction that occurred many years ago and that if Japan does not resolve existing cases of child abduction to Japan it will not reflect favorably upon Japan. She asserted that dealing with existing cases was very important.
Carlos stated that the GoJ MUST create a way to reunite parents and their abducted children in the existing cases, both international and domestic, to not do so was unacceptable. Mr. Oguchi did not respond to this.
I stated that currently, court ordered visitations were being denied by abductors. I asked about enforcement of court ordered visitation rights, what enforcement mechanism was the GoJ going to create to ensure that court orders are not violated? Mr. Oguchi’s response was evasive, he spoke of (jishin ho ho ho) which we questioned…Was he referring to the Civil Execution Law for property? He was. ((because children are basically property in Japan))
Oguchi then said (in complete contrast to his previous answer) that he believed children had a right to see both of their parents. We asserted that only the installation of joint custody would protect those children’s human rights. Current laws are inadequate.
We asked if Japan signs the Hague Convention, would Japan then use the police to find abducted children? Mr. Oguchi said that police were used in cases of crime. If it is a crime then the police would be used.
I asked if Japan has plans to criminalize parental child abduction?
Mr. Oguchi’s response was that if it is judged as a crime by the court then it is possible. (Japan considers abduction a crime when the non-custodial parent, who has no parental rights, takes the child away from the custodial parent.)
He continued that it is difficult to consider this a crime because it is the biological parent ( and custodial parent) who abducted the child. Japan does not consider this a crime.
Carlos asked again if Japan needed to create a law which criminalizes parental abduction by either parent?
Mr. Oguchi responded in an evasive fashion, he talked about the fact that there were current discussions about how Japan can modify domestic laws in order to accede to the Hague convention and still protect women from domestic violence. (We have known this for six months. We know that Japan is trying to find loopholes to the Hague as it is currently written. Japan continues to portray foreign fathers as abusers)
We further discussed violations of agreed upon parenting plans…When visitation is modified, revoked or changed by the custodial parent currently there is no recourse for the non-custodial parent. Mr. Oguchi’s response to this was again that the Civil Execution Law currently in place for property transfers can be used for forced custody transfers. We asserted that this was only effective when the custodial parent voluntarily agrees to give over custody, it is not actually enforcement. Mr. Oguchi stated, regarding enforcement, “it looks difficult”.
Final question by me was to request a comment from Mr. Oguchi regarding the fact that Japan is currently in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, sections 9.3 and 10.2 specifically. His response, translated, “There are many lacking points in Japanese system. Japan already ratified that Convention. I would like to recognize what you have suggested to us today. It is the base of Japanese law, so there are many opinions. We received over 800. The Japanese system regarding protecting children’s rights is inadequate. This is from the base of Japanese tradition and law. Japan, as a democratic country…of course, there will be many detailed discussions regarding domestic law ahead.”
This Congressman was the most evasive to date. I left this meeting having discovered only one thing for sure. JAPAN IS NOT PLANNING TO ADDRESS OR RESOLVE EXISTING CASES OF ABDUCTION.