Parental Child Abduction in Japan
ARTICLE: Chiara Galvani, Federica Galvani
PHOTOS: Marco Panzetti
It’s been 949 days since Taro last saw his son. His wife went to pick up their child from kindergarten and never returned.
Gianluca has not seen his son for more than three years. Every second Sunday of the month, however, he takes a plane to Hokkaido where, according to a Supreme Court ruling, visits with his son are supposed to take place. But no one ever shows up.
Pierluigi is considered lucky because, after a 17-month separation from his two sons who were taken away by their mother, he has been able to see them once or twice a month since December 2017. He has been given this access because, according to the judge, “he is a good dad”.
This is happening in Japan, a country long considered the ‘black hole’ for child abduction. The rest of the world describes these cases as ‘abduction’ and treat them as such, but the practice is widely tolerated in Japan.
The parental child abduction in Japan is a “huge human rights problem”, says John Gomez, president of the Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion organisation. “What we have discovered is that, every year in Japan 150,000 children lose access to one of their parents. Calculated over a period of 20 years this means 3 million cases, and each one of them is a human rights violation,” he added.
The practice has been tacitly permitted by the Japanese legal system, under which custody issues and disputes following a divorce are considered a ‘private’ matter. Japanese law does not even address joint custody of minors, and the civil courts do not have the legal tools to enforce their rulings.
Our report focuses on this thorny issue, which is as widespread as it is unknown. We shed light on this grey area in the Japanese legal system. And uncover the stories of the fathers who suffer.