While Hillary Clinton was in Tokyo on Sunday as part of the Afghanistan development conference, a group of roughly 40 foreign and Japanese parents called on her to put pressure on Japan to sign The Hague treaty on the issue of child abductions in custody disputes. Clinton wasn’t able to directly respond, but the group continued their rally with signs to bring attention to the issue. Despite the Japanese government submitting a bill in March to agree to the The Hague’s 1980 Convention on International Child Abduction, the Diet has yet to discuss it or schedule at time to begin.
Currently, Japan does not recognize joint-custody to parents in the case of a divorce, and the courts tend to award sole custody to the mother. In the case of international marriages, the Japanese courts will never give custody to the foreign parent, especially when it is the father. This leaves parents from other nations with no rights to see their half Japanese child. Many western countries have voiced their concern over Japan’s reluctance to sign the treaty, but critics in Japan say that is for the protection of women and children against abusive foreign men.
Regardless if Tokyo agrees to The Hague convention, it will only apply to custody cases in the future, and not those already ongoing. The group of parents gave a letter to the U.S. Embassy to deliver to Clinton, in which they pleaded for her to help their situation and prevent the emotional devastation from happening to other families.