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Japan lawmakers approve international child abduction treaty

The Japanese parliament [official website, in Japanese] approved a bill on Wednesday adopting the Hague convention on resolving cross-border abductions of children. Parliament unanimously passed [BBC report] the treaty in response to international pressure for Tokyo to address concerns that Japanese mothers from broken international marriages can take children away from foreign fathers, leaving the fathers without any recourse for the children's return. Countries that are party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction [text] agree that should a child be removed from a signatory country in violation of parental custody rights, the child shall be promptly returned to the treaty partner country. The convention will likely take effect next year [AP report] when Japan officially ratifies the treaty after finalizing domestic procedures, such as passing an implementation law and setting up a local authority for locating abducted children.

Under Japanese family law, only one parent is granted custody [Japan Times report], and foreign parents are usually excluded from custody privileges. According to human rights groups, nearly 160,000 divorced or separated foreign and Japanese parents in Japan are not allowed to see their children [Japan Times report] under the current child custody laws. In 2011 Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano [official website, in Japanese] announced [JURIST report] that Japan would be signing the convention for the welfare of children. Japan was urged to sign the treaty [JURIST report] by 10 other nations in early 2010. Japan had resisted signing the treaty, citing opposition from women who had fled abusive husbands. The US House of Representatives increased pressure on Japan to sign the convention by passing the International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009 [text] in 2010, which created nonbinding sanctions against any country refusing to cooperate in cases of international child abductions. Russia remains the only G8 nation to not sign the treaty.

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