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French father on hunger strike over abducted children

thomas

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I wonder how this one's going to end... Vincent Fichot, a Frenchman who has been living in Japan for 15 years, began a hunger strike in Tokyo Saturday in a protest against the alleged abduction of his children by his former Japanese wife. He hopes to bring international attention to his fight to be reunited with his family.

vincent-fichon.jpg


“I’ve given everything, I’ve lost my job, my house and my savings in the last three years. I weigh 80 kilograms now, and I’ll give it all until the very last gram,” Vincent Fichot said, sitting at the entrance to a train station in Tokyo, not far from the new Olympic stadium. Fichot, 39, who has lived in Japan for 15 years, said he will not give up his hunger strike until his children, a boy and a girl aged 6 and 4, are returned to him. Failing that, he said, “I want the French authorities to show me they are serious and that they really want to defend my kids, and that they will impose sanctions against Japan until Japan agrees to protect my children’s rights.” His wife has accused him in court of domestic violence, Fichot said, but later “retracted” the claim, and the Japanese justice system now has “nothing to reproach me for,” he said. “I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried to convince my wife by saying to her that it was not good for the kids,” he added. “Right now, I don’t even know if they are alive.”



In 2019, WP covered his story and that of an Italian resident who went through the same experience:

Parental child abduction becomes a diplomatic embarrassment for Japan ahead of G-7.


However, the issue does not only affect foreign parents:

In Japan, divorce can mean losing access to children. Many parents want that to change.

It's quite heartbreaking, and, frankly, I fail to understand why Japanese family law has no provisions for joint custody and visiting rights for non-custodial parents.* It seems to be possible in the case of amicable divorces.



* In fact, the WP article explained the reason behind the absence of such provisions: the continuity of the child's upbringing. More here and here.
 

Petaris

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A few years ago Japan finally signed the Hague Convention but the enforcement has been lacking to say the least. It was supposed to help deal with this type of situation. Important Features of the Hague Abduction Convention - Why the Hague Convention Matters

There have been lots of news stories over the years about this and about the kids being scared into not seeing/talking to the foreign parent. Also about the kids being coached on exactly what to say when the Japanese authorities come to "enforce" a custody decision so that no enforcement actually occurs. The continuity excuse is just that, an excuse used to alienate one of the parents from the children.
 

Lothor

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It's quite heartbreaking, and, frankly, I fail to understand why Japanese family law has no provisions for joint custody and visiting rights for non-custodial parents.* It seems to be possible in the case of amicable divorces.
...and even with non-amicable divorces when the safety of the children is not an issue. My parents had a very messy divorce but visitation rights for my younger siblings (I was about to go to university when they announced their divorce) were never an issue.
 
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thomas

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Vincent is still holding out in front of the Olympic Stadium. You have to respect his tenacity.




They are uploading new videos every day. Days 10 and 11:




 
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thomas

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Yesterday, Fichot ended his hunger strike near the Olympic stadium. According to the media, he fainted and injured his hand. He's lost 14 kilograms over the past 2 weeks.

The European Union ambassadors to Japan met with Vincent Fichot, 39, who is camped out at a train station near the National Stadium, a focus of the ongoing Games, where temperatures regularly top 30 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit) amid sweltering humidity. Fichot's dramatic protest aims to draw attention to the plight of parents like him who are denied custody or visitation of their children in a divorce. Japan, unlike most countries, does not recognise joint custody and children often lose contact with the non-custodial parent.



So far, I haven't seen any report on this issue by Japanese media. It seems Vincent's case was completely ignored.
 
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thomas

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The Japan Times on Fichot's case and parental laws in Japan in general. Legal experts reject the notion that Japan was a "sole custody" country and point out that there are ways that allow divorced nonresident parents to participate in the upbringing of a child - provided the parents are willing to do so. Some parents go to extreme lengths to win parental authority, absconding with their children to establish their de facto status as the resident parent by exaggerating or fabricating claims of domestic violence to discredit the other parent’s suitability. This has also happened in Fichot's case.

The system of sole parental authority is, in a sense, a holdover from Japan’s prewar patriarchy, when only fathers were made the holders of that right following divorce, under the logic that children belonged to the male parent. Out went this patriarchal system after the war, and in came the principle of equality between fathers and mothers under the new Civil Code, but it remained unchanged that only one of them could be granted parental authority post-divorce. This was due mainly to the belief that allowing both parents to wield power over children would risk “complicating parents’ decision-making” in child-rearing matters, according to Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of family law studies at Waseda University. Many fathers continued to assume parental authority in the immediate years after the war. However, mothers soon became the dominant holders of this right as a “men at work, women at home” mentality prevented many fathers from bonding with their children. Today, mothers are afforded parental authority in around 80% of all divorce cases involving children.


 
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