Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Domestic Violence and the Implementation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: Japan and U.S. Policy

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Domestic Violence and the Implementation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: Japan and U.S. Policy

Article excerpt

Introduction

Transnational families are those in which one or both members of the couple are resident in a country which is not their birthplace, or in which at least one member does not have citizenship status (Lindhorst & Edelson, 2012). In the United States, the number of marriages between U.S. citizens and persons who are foreign-born has increased substantially (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2009). Likewise, in many other countries as global migration has increased, marriages and relationships between citizens and non-citizens have grown requiring the development of transnational legal agreements to address issues that have arisen upon the dissolution of these relationships (Uchida, 2013). The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (hereafter, the Hague Convention) is one such international treaty. (3)

No one enters into a marriage or relationship with the expectation that they will become a victim of spousal abuse; however, in some transnational families, partners are perpetrating abuse against their spouse and possibly their children. Women facing abuse from a partner often turn first to family members and friends for emotional and practical assistance in coping with the abuse. When seeking out family support means leaving one nation for another, international treaties such as the Hague Convention may be invoked. Under the Hague Convention, a battered woman who has fled across international borders can be held responsible for unlawfully removing her children, and the children can be returned to the left-behind parent in the other country, creating a legal quandary for women trying to protect themselves and their children from danger.

In 2013, the Japanese Diet (equivalent to the U.S. Congress) agreed to become a signatory to the Hague Convention and entered negotiations with the United States to become a treaty partner. Japan has one of the highest rates of open child abduction cases among the countries the U.S. tracks, with more than 100 children known to have been abducted to or retained in Japan without the permission of both parents (Bond, 2009).

The purpose of this article is to use a case-based approach (Gerring, 2004) to compare how concerns about domestic violence (DV) were addressed in the development and implementation of the Hague Convention in the U.S. and Japan. The field of comparative policy analysis is most frequently approached in a gender-neutral fashion that ignores the ways in which policy has differential effects for women (Kenney, 2003; Mazur, 2009; McPhail, 2003). This study draws on feminist standpoint theories (Hartsock, 2004; Smith, 1987), feminist policy analysis strategies (Marshall, 1999; McPhail, 2003) and discourse tracing methods (LeGreco & Tracy, 2009) to answer the research question of why Japan was more successful than the U.S. in including domestic violence in its adoption of the Hague Convention. Using primary source materials from the Japanese government and press, (4) texts of relevant laws from both countries, and U.S. and European research on the Hague Convention, we argue that Japan's approach to implementation has been more aware of the issue of DV, despite its shorter policy history in addressing these issues internally. To situate this analysis, we start with a brief description of the Hague Convention and current scholarship on the issue of domestic violence in transnational relationships. We then compare the context of domestic violence in Japan and U.S., describe the Hague Convention ratification process in Japan, and provide a comparison of the implementing legislation in each country regarding its recognition of domestic violence. We use this information to theorize about reasons for policy differences in the Hague Convention process between the U.S. and Japan. We end with a discussion of how this information can be used to craft policies and practices related to the implementation of the Hague Convention in both countries that acknowledge and respond to the safety needs of abused mothers and their children. …

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