By Thandeka Chauke and Tšhegofatšo Mothapo, Statelessness Project, Lawyers for Human Rights
A recent decision by South Africa’s apex court has put the focus on an antiquated law that prevented children of unmarried parents accessing birth registration in the same way that children of married parents do. It’s a crucial issue for the children affected and their families, because the law as it previously stood was a serious obstacle and the potential cause of statelessness for those denied birth registration. As the writers explain, the decision of SA’s Constitutional Court affirms the intrinsic worth and right to birth registration for all children in SA and also does away with several archaic concepts.
“Children are vulnerable members of society, even more so when they are without valid birth certificates” – Victor AJ in Centre for Child Law v Director General: Home Affairs.
Birth registration plays an often unseen but fundamentally important part in the life of a child. Without a birth certificate, children can have difficulty in accessing their rights, become outcasts in their own country, struggle to feel like they belong, and grow up to be disenfranchised and marginalised adults. Crucially, without a birth certificate, children are at a heightened risk of statelessness. While birth registration in itself does not confer nationality, the official record of the child’s place of birth and parentage provides critical evidence of the facts that enable a child to assert their right to a nationality. Lack of birth registration has been identified as one of the primary causes of childhood statelessness and generational statelessness in Southern Africa.
South Africa has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Both treaties and the SA Constitution, clearly articulate the right of every child to birth registration. The government boasts a reported birth registration rate of nearly 90%, yet thousands of children born in SA struggle to secure their right to birth registration due to barriers in laws, practice and policies.
Read further: https://africanlii.org/article/20211104/ending-childhood-statelessness-and-dismantling-barriers-birth-registration-south