Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Bird, a Bell and Me: Custody disputes are not a new issue

私が両手をひろげても、Even if I spread open my arms
お空はちっとも飛べないが、I cannot soar into the sky at all,
飛べる小鳥は私のように、 but the little bird who can fly
地面を速く走れない。 cannot run fast along the ground like I can.
私が体をゆすっても、 Even if I shake my body
きれいな音はでないけど、 no beautiful sound will come out,
あの鳴る鈴は私のように、 but the ringing bell does not
たくさんな唄は知らないよ。 know lots of songs like I do.
鈴と、小鳥と、それから私、 The bell, the little bird and also me:
みんなちがって、みんないい。 We are all different; we are all good.
I apologise to my translator friends for the poetic license employed in my translation m(__)m

It remains normal in Japanese divorces for one parent to retain sole custody, leaving the other parent with no visitation rights. This is one of about a thousand and one social problems caused by the family register system. A child can only be listed in one family’s register, so only one parent can keep them.  Even in cases where shared custody is awarded, there are no penalties for the primary custodian (the one with the child in their register) if s/he refuses the other parent access. A friend of mine has not seen his children since his ex-wife began demanding cash payments in return for allowing him to see them. These problems are becoming more widespread as the divorce rate increases, but they aren’t new. Kaneko Misuzu, the author of the poem above and a popular children’s writer, committed suicide in 1930. Her husband had contracted a venereal disease from frequenting brothels, so she divorced him. He responded by claiming sole custody of their daughter. Kaneko was twenty-seven when she ended her life.
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