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An Italian Case-2

English translation, 日本語版, and original Italian article shown below

LA STAMPA | WORLD | Tuesday 31 January 2017



Tokyo, father loses custody of daughter “The child is used to living without him”

Mr. Watanabe does not give up and his battle is a milestone for many other fathers


Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi


On 6 May 2010, Mr. Yasuyuki Watanabe, employed at the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs, went back home, and he found it empty. No trace of his wife and daughter, who was only two years old at the time. Even their clothes were gone. Since then, all the contacts he had with them were via legal ways. Last year, a historic court ruling gave him custody of his daughter, but some days ago the Tokyo High Court overturned the ruling: “The daughter has lived with the mother. She is in good health and wants to keep things that way. Taking into consideration the daughter’s best interest, it’s more appropriate to give custody to the mother.” Mr. Watanabe will proceed with the appeal: “It’s a sentence that awards who abducted the child; it’s unforgivable.” With this, he’s become a “left-behind parent”, one of the thousands that are moving the public opinion in Japan.


Japan has been considered “a black hole for child abductions.” When parents divorce, joint custody does not exist. The children are assigned to the parent who is living with them at that moment, even if they had been abducted. The family courts rarely allow the “left-behind parent” the right to see the child. Every year, an average of 150 thousand parents lose touch with their children. In some cases, this separation is by the parent’s will, but in the majority of cases it’s forced.


An aspect that is particularly painful is when this issue involves mixed couples, and that has been regulated by the Hague Convention (on international child abduction), signed by 95 countries. Japan is among them since 2014. This Convention claims that children under 16 years old abducted by one of the parents must be returned to the country where they normally resided. According to the Japanese Supreme Court, in 2015 there have been 97 Hague cases involving “left-behind parents”, but only in 27 cases has the court granted the return of the child from the ex-partner. On top of this, the Convention is not retroactive, and only in 3% of cases is the return of the child to the winning parent enforced.


The cracks in the system are obvious. There are blogs, complaint websites, legal advice forums and international petitions. Mr. Watanabe’s proposal was granting a higher number of visitation days (100 days a year) to his wife, but the hope that was surrounding his case has been dashed. We all hope that our compatriot who is fighting in the Japanese court system will have a different sentence, and that he will be able to see his children again. There are currently hundreds of thousands of parents who, just like him, would simply like to be granted their rights to have a relationship with their own children.


LA STAMPA | 世界| 2017年1月31日(火)








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