The BBC has published new coverage of child abduction in Japan. It describes the weeping and gnashing of teeth of a left behind father of an “international” divorce, and then goes on to reference other stories and provides a typical example of the kind of horrid pseudo-expert opinion that is consistently used these days to justify Japan’s practice of forcibly separating children from one parent, post-divorce.
In the article, you will see two testimonials, one from Oshima and another from Osamu. Oshima and Osamu each in their way indicate attitudes from within Japan that are either unfamiliar with nearly 40 years of advancement in psychology, or are willful distortions of known truth. Wiser heads than mine have said that the practice of psychology in Japan is in a dismal state, and the more you learn about Japanese views of what constitutes mental health and mental health care, the more does that seem to be so. This article is only one example of course, but virtually ANY discussion of parental kidnapping, children’s rights, parental rights, the best interests of children, or whether or not Japan should sign onto international agreements that are supposed to assist signatory nations in protecting their children from being abducted, all bring the same notions to bear, again and again, as if repeating them often enough would make them true. The Japanese people are unfortunately given daily doses of the fiction that it is somehow better for a child to be given to only one of its two parents post-divorce, largely because the law in Japan requires it, and an interested family court bureaucracy would find it troublesome to have to adapt were this despicable notion to change. Today, the parent who is gifted with the right to the child is the mother. The reasons, if you can call them that, are based on rigid gender role beliefs that are successfully educated into people as the decades pass. It’s not as if the painful and difficult process of growing into the contemporary realities of what we know about gender today were not a battle we know well here. It’s just that the consequences of this immobile ideology in Japan’s case, however, are dire for the children who are its principal victims.
* Fathers, as well as Mothers
Virtually ALL developmental psychology research the last 35+ years shows that father is as essential as mother in raising psychologically healthy children. There is great reading to be easily had for anyone who wants to know this.
Looking at the BBC article again, here are the two instances of willfulness or ignorance, or both:
1. Osamu‘s decision: separating the child results from “thought about the child’s best interests” is, in fact, LACK of thought about the child’s best interests.
2. Oshima‘s statements: Unlike the court systems in US states, Japanese court custody and divorce mediators are not required to have any professional qualifications of any kind, so the statements below are spoken and left unquestioned, although they do not bear up under minimal scrutiny:
“Oshima: “These women who come back do not do it because they want to,” she says. “They feel this is the only way out. They want their child to be brought up in Japan, and not in the host country where the father is abusive and she has no control over her children’s education.”
No! This is projection, and a paranoid construction. The two notions Ms. Oshima states – mashed together in a single sentence – mix, conflate and confuse two often-repeated distortions. The kidnapping parent is being encouraged to think that because he or she is scheming, then so the other parent must be far MORE guilty of scheming, a fair definition of paranoiac thinking.
We’ve got to say what’s true, clearly and often: Japanese kidnapping parents “come back” (kidnap kids) to Japan because they want to, and because Japanese lawyers and courts offer to aid and abet and provide asylum and police protection for parental kidnappers. In Japan, where joint custody is illegal and best interest of the child is defined by judges with no legal statute specifying what best interest of the child means (hence, leaving it to the whim of the judge’s gender and ethnic biases), parental kidnapping is rewarded with absolute, complete custody of the child, without an authentic necessity for the abductor to show cause. Thousands of Japanese parents and non-Japanese parents are abused in precisely this manner, their child abducted, and it is they who are left without any control over their children’s education. Don’t miss the reversal of terms. Paranoid projection.
I am of course not trying to claim that the American system is not deeply flawed in other ways; but negotiation of the children’s post-divorce education is a required part of a custody settlement in the US, which attempts to ensure that both parents’ right to be involved is protected. And further, unlike Japan, there are mechanisms of enforcement which are designed to ensure that the children’s education will be carried out according to the orders of the court, with both parents involved to the degree to which they are willing, able and responsible; and the price for disobeying those orders can be cause for further actions to protect the interest of the child and of both parents in their children’s education and well-being. But in Japan, the child is stolen by one parent, and the prior relationship of that child with his or her other parent is forcibly discarded, causing instantaneous, and then compounded long-term emotional and psychological damage. Any attempt by the left parent to come back into the child’s life is treated as a crime, punishable with arrest and jail time. No authentic reason for this separation is required. It is simply the opinion of the law that only one parent gets the child, period. By any acceptable standard, the child’s interest in growing up psychologically healthy with a relationship with both of his parents is ignored and made illegal.
Truly, we need everyone, but I think we should enjoin women’s rights groups to take an increased interest in Japanese international parental abduction. False, fabricated abuse claims such as Ms. Oshima’s unsubstantiated generalization have become the domestic political excuse and justification du jour for the Japanese to continue to sanction parental kidnapping, to ward off international pressure to put a stop to it. And what that means is the undermining of Japan’s already meager domestic abuse defenses for women, and an epidemic of abductions of children. The victims, the children and the left-behind parent, are left with no recourse under the current system.
Please spread the word; force the US government to DEMAND the return of our abducted children before they are further traumatized and their lives are destroyed in Japan. Call friends in the women’s movement in the US and in Japan if you have them. And DEMAND that the US government act in the interest of humanity for once, and get our kids back.
I love you Rui, wherever you are. I will NEVER stop fighting to regain my right to be your Daddy, and your right to remain what you always are and always will be: my beloved boy.