The Japanese government will announce its accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction on Friday.
Should we be excited? Should we celebrate?
Japanese child abduction is an epidemic. In the global world in which more communications flow with greater and greater diffusion, and differences between countries increasingly become more a matter of economy than culture, even as more and more international relationships come together, rise and fall, combine and split like cells, Japanese family law is still in the dark ages. There is a very real failure there to understand the traumatic consequences for children of having a mother steal children away from their father for no authentic reason, and then fabricate an enormous amount of nonsense about the Daddy as if he were someone evil because he and the mother have disagreements or differences in sensibility.
What appears is that there is a tremendous sense among separating, divorcing Japanese women that they are being terribly mistreated because a daddy wants to continue his relationship with his child even though the couple have relationship difficulties or a break-up.
So, the Hague Convention signing will not bring us back our children because Japan is planning already to continue its practice of treating non-Japanese spouses (or ex-spouses) as enemies or as irrelevant to the children. It is a social pathology to pull children away from their parent. It is not a right that a woman (or man) should automatically have because they simply got the child to a safe haven for parental abduction (Japan) first. But who said anything about doing right?
Will the Hague bring children home? What it will do is to create a more effective mechanism of respite for Japan from the pressure it felt to begin to conform to international legal practice and custom in cases of children’s rights, parental rights and international child abduction. Signing the Hague Convention before returning the already kidnapped children is merely an update of the “we’re studying the issue” response that Japanese Foreign Ministers have been saying to the world for decades, over the world’s muffled protests.
Now the Japanese will be happy to return to their study sessions and back offices where they will claim to be studying implementation procedures for more agonizing years, while the children remain in captivity, alienated further and further from the parent who loves them best, who would not have thought to deprive the child of a parent. A left-behind parent is a parent who is not so extraordinarily selfish, self-seeking and pathological that he would traumatize his child, and create a black hole in a baby’s heart where Daddy or Mommy used to be.
So what response can we expect? Our US Department of State will be high-fiving in the “Office of Children’s Issues”, the policy ghetto where our children’s case files are stored and collect dust. State has succeeded in stalling the parents of kidnapped kids. It has successfully achieved its policy goal: swat the fly. Push the Japanese to sign an international convention on kidnapping so that US officials can dance away from the issue for a while and pursue real foreign policy goals: like furthering integration of the Japanese armed forces into the the US command structure, and strengthening the faltering presence of the US in East Asian affairs, especially economic affairs.
What is tragic in this? Our children are no closer to being saved from their abductors today than they were the day the abductions took place. And that state of affairs deserves mourning, not celebration.