child abduction

In a new report, the State Department stated that India is insufficiently acting against parents who have kidnapped Indian American children. India is the number three country in the world for parental child abductions. Above, a drawing on the website of Bring Our Kids Home, which advocates for Indian American children who have been kidnapped by their parents. (Bring Our Kids Home photo)

India is beginning to work with the U.S. to find a solution to child abduction cases, a State Department official told lawmakers May 17.

“India is beginning to work with us to find practical solutions for children who are being abducted between our two countries," Suzanne I. Lawrence, Special Advisor, Children's Issues Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State, told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Sub-committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, as reported by PTI.

In 2017, the State Department reported 104 cases of abduction of U.S. children in India. This includes 20 new cases and 84 from the previous years.

Lawrence added that she also pressed upon the Indian government to join the Hague Convention. India is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. No bilateral agreements exist between the two countries. Without the Hague Abduction Convention or any other protocols intended to resolve abduction cases, parents generally must pursue custody of abducted children in Indian courts, where they are mostly unsuccessful.

India is the number 1 non-Hague Abduction Convention signatory destination of child abduction from the U.S., and number 3 overall, according to a 2015 State Department report.

“The United States nor India have engaged seriously to remedy the human tragedy, the proof of which lies in the ever increasing volume of unresolved abductions cases to India, over 50 percent of them pending for five years or more,” noted the organization Bring Our Kids Home, which advocates for Indian American children who have been kidnapped by their parents (see earlier India-West story here).

India is widely referred to as a "safe haven" for abducting parents who take advantage of a favorable Indian judicial system, and face no consequences for their wrongdoing, noted BOKH.

“Parental child abduction is not recognized as a crime in India, judges decide abduction cases on arbitrary basis, wrongfully asserting jurisdiction on foreign nationals and non-resident Indians,” stated the organization.

Lawrence’s remarks came on the same day that the State Department released a new report on child abduction, in which it accused India of not doing enough to protect abducted Indian American children.

The report noted that 90 percent of child abduction cases from the U.S. to India have languished in Indian courts for over a year.

"India does not adhere to any protocols with respect to international parental child abduction. In 2017, India demonstrated a pattern of non-compliance. Specifically, the competent authorities in India persistently failed to work with the Department of State to resolve abduction cases," the report said.

"Judicial action in custody cases in India has been slow, and Indian courts tend to default to granting custody to the taking parent. The lack of clear legal procedures for addressing international parental child abduction cases under Indian law makes it difficult for India to resolve these cases," it said.

"I am personally committed to pressing these countries to take more effective measures to resolve cases of IPCA on behalf of children and families around the world," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a forward to the report.

In June 2016, when former President Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the U.S. and India in a joint statement committed to renew efforts to address a range of issues affecting their citizens, including issues related to child custody. The issue was also raised by the then Secretary of State John Kerry, as reported by PTI.

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