Gender Gap Fuels Disputes As Japan Gets Joint Custody

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Gender gap fuels disputes as Japan gets joint custody

Tokyo, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 25th Jun, 2024) Masaki Kubota's delight at reuniting with his two sons gave way to heartbreak when the younger, two years old, stared at him uncomprehendingly as if to say: "Who are you?"

It was their first encounter since his wife left with the boys a year earlier -- the kind of painful separation that Japan's new parental custody rules aim to prevent.

The country enacted laws last month allowing joint custody after divorce, replacing a decades-old system where it was granted to only one side, and almost always to the mother.

But the change has proved polarising in a country where campaigners say sole custody acts as a bulwark against forms of domestic abuse courts may fail to recognise.

Rights groups argue that mothers who have escaped economic or psychological violence -- exacerbated by financial inequalities -- risk being dragged back into abusive relationships under joint custody.

Pressure had long been building on lawmakers, including from the United Nations, which recommended in 2019 that Japan allow joint custody "when it is in the child's best interests".

A French father's high-profile hunger strike during the Tokyo Olympics also drew global attention to the issue.

Kubota, who is not yet divorced from his estranged wife, hopes the new provision will allow them to share "important" decision-making for their children.

"It's painful -- I'm sorry I cannot be part of their lives and watch them grow," the 43-year-old told AFP.

He says his wife, who left him in 2022, felt she had been disproportionately saddled with domestic duties, but he argues that he contributed where he could.

Having sought access to his sons through the courts, Kubota sewed train and cartoon patches onto his jacket to make them smile at their reunion.

But he was devastated by his son's reaction.

"I felt like I was being erased from his memory," he said.