Japan vows to close child abduction black hole
ABC News (Australia)
Updated May 22, 2012 14:15:41
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Japan has been described as an international black hole for child abduction - a place where a Japanese national can run to with their children in the wake of a broken international marriage.
Once in the country, Japanese parents are protected by the country's police and courts.
Foreign parents are often completely frozen out of their childrens' lives.
Kyoto's Doshishi University professor of law Colin Jones says while Japan may well keep its promise to sign the Hague Convention, he is pessimistic about it actually adhering to the letter of it.
"Who wants to be the first judge to order a crying child to be taken away from a crying Japanese mother and sent overseas? Nobody," he told Foreign Correspondent
"When we talk about family law in Japan today, there really isn't any."
One of Alex Kahney's most precious memories is a home video of him playing guitar and singing Born to be Wild with his two daughters, Kay-lee and Selena.
It is all he has left, because two years ago he returned home from work in Tokyo to an empty house.
"I went to the police, I said to the police, 'My wife's taken my kids out of the house without my permission'. The policeman laughed," he said.
"The first two or three months I was shattered, the first six months I was numb.
"I've been disowned. I might as well be a ghost."
Mr Kahney's Japanese wife snatched their children away, and he has not been able to speak with them since they were taken two years ago.
And despite a Japanese court order now giving Mr Kahney monthly access to his daughters, his wife will not allow him to see them.
In desperation he tries to talk with them every now and then as they leave school.
It is a harrowing scene. His daughters ignore him, and eventually they run off down the street.
"They just ignore me, I'm nothing," he said. No joint custody
But it is not just a problem for parents of international marriages whose children are snatched and taken to Japan.
Japan is a country in which joint custody is not recognised in domestic divorces, meaning hundreds of thousands of parents are frozen out of their kids' lives.
When Rina Furuichi was diagnosed with depression five years ago, her husband filed for divorce and abducted their daughter.
As in other custody dispute cases, the court declared possession nine-tenths of the law, so Ms Furuichi is only allowed to see her daughter once a month.
"It's only for three hours," she said.
"I tell my daughter that you weren't abandoned by your mother, your mother loves you."
These days, Ms Furuichi is seeking the path to enlightenment as a Buddhist monk.
Mr Kahney still misses singing with his daughters.
Having run out of money, he is leaving Japan and heading back to Britain.