Child Abduction in Japan: Shane Clarke Case Tokyo Correspondent Walker Interviews Shane Clarke
By Lee Jay Walker Tokyo Correspondent
Child abduction in Japan and case of Shane Clarke
Shane Clarke is a British national who is being prevented from seeing his children because of the Japanese government and legal system which discriminates against all foreign nationals.
Japan is a nation which allows children of mixed blood to be kidnapped and to be alienated from the left-behind parent and other family members who care deeply.
Both Walter Benda and David Brian Thomas who founded The Children¨s Rights Council of Japan (http://www.crcjapan.com) state that ＾the best parent is both parents.￣ This organization is trying its best to fight against the injustices of the Japanese legal system and the political system which is allowing child abduction.
I urge all people to read the harrowing case of Shane Clarke and consider his responses deeply because he was challenged about many important issues.
I also hope that people will read about The Children's Rights Council of Japan ( http://www.crcjapan.com ) because collective pressure is needed in order to galvanize public attention.
This article also highlights the role of other governments, for example the British government; after all, surely Japan must be pressurized into changing the system and shamed for allowing child abduction.
Therefore, please read about Shane Clarke and other deeper issues. Why should he and tens of thousands of other nationals have to suffer?
Question: Can you please tell me briefly about how you met and how your wife responded to life in England?
Answer: We met on the internet and exchanged messages for a while before finally deciding to meet up. She was studying in London at the time, and I was in West Bromwich, just outside Birmingham. She seemed very at home here in the UK; very cosmopolitan. She gave the impression that she would feel comfortable anywhere. It was actually one of the things that attracted me to her. She was well-travelled, and had lived in Canada and Germany, so western society was nothing new to her. In fact, it would be fair to say she was quite westernised.
Question: Did your wife have cultural problems in England and what role did your parents and other family members have in the upbringing of your children?
Answer: On the whole, she didn't really have any cultural problems. As I said before, she was well-travelled and had spent time in other western countries. Also, we adapted our lifestyle at home to come more into line with Japanese culture, such as taking off our shoes before we entered the house. The only member of my family that really had anything to do with the upbringing of the children was my mother. My wife didn't really like my first daughter, Chelcie, to have any contact with the children. My wife had some mental health problems which mainly manifested themselves as anger management issues. She could be very fiery regarding the children. She wouldn't allow me to have any say in how they were raised. She also got angry if the wrong thing was said, such as when I wanted to have them Christened. However, the most outstanding incident was when Mei, the older of our two children, developed childhood eczema. My wife was furious. She said it was my fault and that she was going to divorce me, saying that because of me, our baby was going to be ugly and probably scarred for life. As usual when she got angry, there was no talking to her, there was no reasoning with her. For about three days, she refused to talk to me, and stalked around the house like a monster, waiting to attack at the slightest prompt. Then she went to visit my mom, who managed to get through to her and told her how unreasonable she was being. My mom had a calming influence on my wife, and Ryoko (my wife) genuinely seemed to love her. When my mother died in January 2007, Ryoko cut her annual trip to Japan short to come back over to say goodbye to my mother in the funeral home and to attend the funeral. She seemed genuinely upset that my mother had died, which is why this thing is so confusing, because she seemed so fond of my mother, and she knew that my mother would never want her to cut off my contact with the children, yet she does it anyway.
Question: When your wife took both children to Japan were you suspicious that something was wrong?
Answer: Absolutely not. Less than two weeks before they went, we had taken a lovely holiday in the Lake District for Ryoko's birthday. We had a great time. I was coming to the end of an MBA at one of the top business schools in the world. As far as I knew, we had a great future ahead of us.
Question: How did you feel when you realized that your wife had ulterior motives?
Answer: I was devastated, confused, hurt, frustrated. I ran the whole gamut of emotions. I felt betrayed by the person I trusted most in the world, and I wanted to know why. I had done everything I possibly could to try to make her happy. The only thing I couldn't do was turn my back on my daughter, but it seems this one thing was too much for her.
Question: Since your wife took your children to Japan have you had any contact with her recently, either in person, by phone, by letter or by email?
Answer: I haven't had any contact whatsoever with my wife or children since June last year. I don't know if my children are okay. I don't even know what they look like anymore.
POINT OF VIEW/ Mitsuru Munakata: Children, parents benefit from joint custody THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2008/11/14
A man in Aichi Prefecture was arrested in August on suspicion of killing his wife in June just before their divorce mediation concluded. I heard that the couple was fighting over custody of their oldest son. In May, a woman demanding the custody of her children was killed by her former husband in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture. In Tokyo's Suginami Ward in the same month, when a police officer tried to stop a domestic disturbance between a separated couple over their children, the husband grabbed the officer's gun and fired a shot. In January, a man killed his wife after she returned to her parents' home in Utsunomiya. The man said he wanted to see his child.
These are reported incidents of violence over child custody that occurred in the first half of the year. I believe countless other disagreements over child custody and visitation go unreported.
The nation's Civil Law grants parental power over a child to one parent only after a divorce. Even when courts provide for visitation by the noncustodial parent, the decision is not legally binding. Whether a divorced parent can actually see the children is left to the discretion of the custodial parent. Courts tend to grant parental authority to the parent in possession of the children after separation. Custody battles are common because parents who take the children first usually end up "the winner."
I did not know this before I separated from my wife last year. Since ours was a common-law marriage, I had no official parental authority to begin with. However, after talking the matter over with my former wife, I initially took our child under my care and allowed the mother to see the child from time to time.
However, my former wife suddenly claimed that I was confining the child and demanded that the child be taken into protective custody. She took the child away and immediately had her second husband adopt it. I was shocked that she could do such a thing just because she had parental authority.
It took me a year before I could see my child again. Parents without parental authority do not have legal parental rights or obligations.
If custodial parents do not allow noncustodial parents to see their children, parents with strong ties to the children suffer all the more.
Major European and North American countries are shifting to a joint custody system that gives both parents rights and requires them to meet obligations as parents after they divorce. The single-parent custody system may have been historically significant in the sense that it decides which parent is responsible for the care of the children of divorced couples. But now, all it does is prompt couples to fight over the custody of their children and break the bond between parents and children.
Psychologists agree that seeing both parents on a regular basis contributes to the sound growth of children. Both parents have the right and responsibility to care for their children, while children have the right to be looked after by both parents. Clearly, it is unnatural to sever ties between parents and children as a result of divorce.
Supported by prejudice that noncustodial parents lack parenting skills and are to blame for broken marriages, courts have frequently severed parent-child relationships. However, as more parents, both men and women, become involved in child care, custody battles are increasing. Guidelines are needed on child support for divorced or separated couples.
A system of support by a third party to adjust relations between divorced or separated parents should also be established. Legislation is urgently needed to make it possible to recognize nontraditional family structures for the benefit of the children.
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The author heads a nationwide network of noncustodial parents seeking visitation and exchanges with their children after divorce or separation.(IHT/Asahi: November 14,2008)