Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Japan signs up to the Hague Convention

Well it might start on April Fool's Day, but Japan has at long last signed up to the Hague Convention. Hopefully at last Japan will no longer be the butt of criticism that once a child is taken to Japan from another convention country it will never return.

Last Friday Japan ratified its signature with The Hague, with the convention due to take effect in Japan on 1 April 2014. Japan joins 89 other countries, including Australia, most of Europe, USA and New Zealand, in being a party to the Convention.

The Convention is the prime means to make children return to the country from which they were wrongfully removed or to the country to which they have been wrongfully retained, provided that both countries are parties to the Convention. The formal name for the Convention is the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The effect of the Hague Convention is that a parent in one country can complain to his government as to the child abduction, which then remits the complaint to authorities in the second country. In the jargon the authorities in each country are called the Central Authority. The Central Authority in the second country typically applies to a court to have the child returned to the first country.

While Hague applications can be very technical applications to run or to defend, generally the children are sent home. Two key aspects of Hague applications are that the best interests of a child are not the paramount concern of the court (unlike other matters concerning children) - so there shouldn't be an endless pursuit of whether or not it is a good idea to send the child home; and it is presumed that authorities in the home country are able to protect the child.

The Convention was signed at The Hague in the Netherlands because that is where an international body of countries, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, is based.

The move by Japan is long overdue. Among Western countries, Japan has long been criticised for not signing the Hague Convention because of domestic beliefs that Japanese children ought to remain in Japan. This step while long overdue is welcome. Let's hope Japan is able to enforce the Hague Convention. Time will tell.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The appalling state of domestic violence in Pakistan

Or more correctly, the appalling state of the role of women in Pakistan.

First, the light at the end of the tunnel: one province, Punjab, has enacted domestic violence laws, and advocates are calling for the other provinces to do the same. Wonderful! The sooner the better.

However, little action seems to be forthcoming, and what is occurring is in circumstances that are terrible for the women in Pakistan. This is according to a report in the News International, a Pakistan online newspaper.

Let's start with comparatives. In Western countries such as Australia, it is commonly estimated that in a lifetime between 1/4 and 1/3 of women will be subjected to domestic violence from their partners- whether it be emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or some other form of abuse.

The figures from Pakistan are off the dial. According to Kanwal Qayyum from Rutgers WPF, an NGO specialising in reproductive rights, 85% of women suffered violence from their partners, or to put it another way only about 1 in 7 women didn't, and almost half or 47% of women copped violence from their partners during pregnancy.

Unbelievably it gets worse.

The perpetrators of violence are not only male partners. They extend to fathers (58%), mothers (32%), stepfathers (7%), and other male/female family members (24%), according to one speaker.

According to another expert, perpetrators of domestic violence are the husbands in 71% of cases, and mothers-in-law in almost 10% of cases.

But that's not all! A solid majority of women have been subject to both physical and sexual violence in the last year: 56.3% of women were subject to physical violence in the last year, 57.6% over a lifetime; and 53.4% of women were subject to sexual violence in the last year, 54.5% over a lifetime, according to Dr Tazeen Ali from Aga Khan University.

By comparison, the 2012 Personal Safety Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics says that 1.2% of Australian women were subjected to sexual violence in the last year and 4.6% were subjected to physical violence in the last year, and 20% for sexual violence and about 35% for physical violence over a lifetime.