Despite the opposition from his own party, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is intent on Japan finally joining the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Japan is the only country in the Group of Eight that has yet to sign the treaty.
The convention deals with cross-border child abductions by parents who are separated or divorced. The Cabinet will re-submit bills to the Diet that will finally get the treaty ratified. PM Abe is pressuring for swift parliamentary approval, probably before he leaves for a state visit to the United States in late February. The U.S Congress has been pressuring President Barack Obama to get Japan to ratify the treaty and in past summits, the President has expressed expectation that Japan will eventually do so. Under the current conditions, the US cannot do anything to help their citizens if their Japanese partners take the children back to Japan.
But there is fierce opposition to the treaty from the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. One mid-ranking LDP lawmaker said that the Western thinking on divorces and family relationships will be imposed on Japan if they join the convention. One example is that in Japan, parental authority is either granted to the mother or father after a divorce while in the West, joint custody is a common practice. New Komeito members are concerned about some conditions in the convention that allow parents to refuse to return children to divorced spouses. Grave danger to children is one of the grounds for a refusal, but it is difficult to conclude if children were abused from previous partners.
“There will be various cases of conflicting interests concerning family relationships,” said Tomomi Inada, minister in charge of administrative reform. “We must come to a conclusion based on thorough discussions.”