Background Note on Sex Discrimination in Birth Registration

Published: 6/Jul/2021


Birth registration is a fundamental right and an enabler of other rights as it bestows a legal identity on children for life. If a child is not registered, they do not officially exist and are vulnerable to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Without birth registration, a child may not be able to go to school, receive medical treatment or benefit from social services. The absence of registration can also lead to statelessness. Yet, despite its importance, the births of millions of children around the world are not registered. A multitude of factors can impede birth registration, including parents’ lack of knowledge of its importance, financial considerations and practical barriers to accessing birth registration facilities. Beyond these factors, discrimination impeding women’s ability to register the birth of children is also a critical barrier. Such sex discrimination may be codified in national legislation and regulations, or may relate to practices based on cultural norms.

Under the umbrella of The Coalition on Every Child’s Right to a Nationality, UNICEF and UNHCR have produced this background note to explore the issue of sex discrimination in birth registration. By providing an overview and country specific examples of the kinds of legislative provisions and cultural norms that can negatively affect women’s ability to register the birth of their children, it is hoped that it will support advocacy efforts, and action by States, that advance a number of the Coalition’s objectives, including:

  • Ensuring that no child is born stateless;
  • Eliminating laws and practices that deny children nationality on discriminatory grounds; and
  • Improving birth registration to prevent statelessness.

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Themes: International standards, Discrimination, Gender, Birth Registration
Regions: International
Year: 2021