Vincent Fichot is making a last bid effort to gain rights to see his two children.
The 39-year old former French derivatives trader has been on hunger strike since July 10th, encamped a short distance from Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium. Fichot hasn’t seen his six-year old son and four-year old daughter in three years, since his wife “abducted” them on August 10th, 2018.
Japanese police warned Fichot that they would arrest him if he contacted his children, he says, after suggesting to them he might try to do so.
Unlike other developed nations, Japan does not offer joint child care in divorce cases. In theory, parents decide which of the two spouses gets parental authority. Often in practice, one parent — usually the mother — absconds with the children and claims domestic violence against their estranged spouse, as happened in this case.
Each year about 150,000 spouses in Japan lose access to their children in this way, with little recourse in Japanese courts. Most are Japanese citizens.
Fichot extended his efforts to gain access by launching a French criminal investigation into the abduction of a French minor. He also lobbied the United Nations and petitioned the European Parliament, namely to restore children’s right to access both parents in Japan. In result, the European Parliament called for Japanese authorities to change their legal system and to enforce international child protection laws. But Japan ignored them.
A group of French fathers, unable to see their children (including Fichot), met Emmanuel Macron during the President’s visit to Japan in June 2019. Macron referred to them in a subsequent Tokyo press conference, calling it “absolutely unacceptable” for Japanese law to cause his fellow countrymen such distress. The fundamental rights of children and their parents must be defended, Macron said, adding, “We will do everything to be at the side of these fathers.”
Fichot pins his last hopes on Macron being true to his word. The President is scheduled to arrive in Japan on July 23rd to attend the Olympic Games. The hunger strike aptly coincides with the visit.
“I’m staying here until I get my kids back,” Fichot says.
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