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Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Helping abused children
The Justice Ministry's Legislative Council on Feb. 15 handed Justice Minister Satsuki Eda a recommendation that the Civil Law be revised so that parental prerogatives can be suspended for up to two years if necessary. The proposed step will make it possible to protect children against abuse and neglect by their parents — such as violence, molestation, refusal to give meals and medical neglect — more effectively than now.
Currently family courts can deprive parents of their prerogatives permanently. Heads of child consultation centers can ask such courts for the deprivation. But this provision is not of practical use or help because the permanent deprivation of parental prerogatives could destroy the child-parent relationship. Under the recommendation, children, children's relatives, legal guardians of minors and public prosecutors can ask family courts for permanent deprivation or up to two years' temporary suspension of parental prerogatives if parents are damaging children's interests through the use of their prerogatives. Thus children suffering from abuse or neglect by their parents will be able to have family courts directly hear their appeals. The temporary suspension of parental prerogatives will be an effective weapon to deal with parents who insist on their right to discipline them in an attempt to hamper the protection of abused or neglected children by the police or children's welfare facilities.
At present, only one person can become a legal guardian of a minor. Under the recommendation, a number of people and corporate bodies such as nongovernmental organizations can become legal guardians of one minor. Children and legal guardians of minors will also be able to request that parents be deprived of their right to manage children's property. The proposed law revision will enable relatives of abused or neglected children and other people around them, such as workers of children's welfare facilities, to fully cooperate to protect the children and enhance their interests. The government and the Diet should not lose any time to enact a revision bill.