A father has staged a hunger strike outside the Tokyo Olympics stadium to protest child abduction in Japan. Vincent Fichot, a 39-year-old banker from France, said that he wants to shed light on his plight as France's President Emmanuel Macron arrives at the global sports event.
Fichot said that he hadn't eaten a bite since he camped outside the stadium on July 10. He said that this hunger strike was his "last resort" to see his children, Tsubasa, 6, and Kaede, 3.
The Frenchman, living in Japan for 15 years, was married to a Japanese woman in 2009, but he claimed that he last saw or spoke to his kids in 2018 because they've been "abducted" by their mother. Fichot said that after coming home from work at Nomura Securities, he found their house empty and had no clue as to where his wife fled with the children.
Custody Battle Turned International Issue
The father consulted with his lawyers, who told him that he would likely never see his children again. Laws in Japan do not allow for dual custody if the parents divorce and it's foreign husbands who suffer from this situation.
Fichot told Reuters that the Japanese government "encourages and legitimizes" child abduction because of this single custody law, so he got his government involved. He is demanding compensation for the violation of his children's rights, and he's also asking France to sanction Japan.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi didn't want to comment on the case but believes that domestic issues should be resolved "in accordance with domestic law." However, Fichot has the support of the European Parliament who has been urging the Japanese to uphold international laws on child protection and joint parental custody.
Macron met with Fichot in 2019, but nothing has progressed in his case since then. An adviser to the president came to see the father at his protest site at the Tokyo Olympics to inform him that Macron will be meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to discuss his plight.
The next day, Macron and Suga issued a joint statement after an 80-minute lunch meeting, stating that the two countries are "committed to strengthening dialogue that places the interests of children first."
150,000 Minors Separated from One Parent
Fichot's kids are just part of a statistic that puts over 150,000 minors as "forcibly separated" from one of their parents. Australian Scott McIntyre said that he has also not seen his kids since 2019 and feels it's wrong for Japan to complain about the abduction of Japanese kids by North Korea when thousands of children in Japan bear the brunt of the country's custody law.
Even Japanese local Takanori Hashimoto, a professional shogi player, has been fighting to see his kids after being "abducted" in 2019 by his ex-wife. Hashimoto has quit his professional career to focus on getting his children back.
Meanwhile, Fichot said that other victims of the single custody law had joined the father in the streets. He noted that some are worried about his health, but he will continue with his hunger strike and fight for his kids until the end.
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