Left Behind -- Japan’s dismal child abduction laws
Illustration: Christi Rochin

Left Behind

Parents challenge Japan’s dismal child abduction laws

It sounds like something out of a John Grisham novel—but it’s not.

“The gentleman was here on a holiday in January 2013 with his family,” explains Bruce Gherbetti, deputy chairman of Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, discussing the case of a Canadian man who had reached out to their organization after his Japanese wife abducted their son. “During the second week of their vacation he went to have a shower, and when he got out—they were gone. He hasn’t heard from his wife since and has no idea where they might be.”

Sadly, the man’s case is just one of many on Kizuna’s books. The organization, an NGO pressing to restore parent-child rights in Japan, specializes in helping “left-behind” parents deal with child abductions to—and within— Japan by their spouses. Kizuna chairman John Gomez estimates there have been about 3 million parental child abductions in Japan since 1992. Gomez himself is a left-behind parent, or LBP. “That’s roughly 150,000 cases per year, and every one of those is a human rights violation,” the soft-spoken Gomez says. “I took data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and looked at divorces in Japan from 1992-2011. Primetime NHK news program Close Up Gendai in September 2010 [also] suggested 58 percent of parents lose access to their children after divorce. This is being acknowledged and recorded as an accurate estimate and translates to 1-in-6 children in Japan having lost a parent through divorce.”

For the complete article by Jane Kitagawa go to http://metropolis.co.jp/features/feature/left-behind/

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