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Divorce law blog

A long time coming: Japan ratifies the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention

26/02/2014   By: Sebastian Allen

Japan has endured sustained criticism for its hesitance in signing up to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. But they have now ratified the Convention, making them the final member of the G8 to do so.

On January 24 2014 in Tokyo, the Government of Japan approved ratification of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention (“The Convention”). This will take effect on 1 April 2014, making them the 91st contracting state. The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention is an agreement requiring nations to return abducted children to the countries where they last resided whilst any dispute about the long term position is dealt with.

Japan’s ratification of the Convention comes after longstanding, multilateral, diplomatic efforts combined with global public outcry over the country’s failure to participate in the treaty. There has been heavy criticism from the US (this has one of the few remaining open disputes between them) and other European countries with Japan being seen as a “safe haven” for international child abductors .

Japan’s current laws do not recognise the concept of joint custody. As a result, the Japanese court system grants full custody of half-Japanese children to their mothers in nearly all cases, leaving the father living abroad without an effective remedy. The ratification of this Convention will go a long way to managing the inherent imbalances in Japanese law, and is certainly a step in the right direction. It is hoped that Japan’s decision to join this international fold will act as an incentive to other non-Hague countries including India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, The Philippines, and China (mainland).

For now, the G8 member states are simply relieved that Japan has finally taken the criticism on board and signed up - it’s been a long time coming.

Sebastian Allen

Trainee Family Law Solicitor


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