CHILD Protection & Child Rights » Vulnerable Children » Children's Issues » Birth Registration
According to UNICEF, birth registration is the official recording of a child's birth by the government administrative processes. Recognising and recording the birth of a child is vital to acknowledging the rights and practical needs of that child. It is a permanent and certified record of the child's existence. Birth registration allows a child to have a nationality, which in turn allows the child to get a passport, open a bank account, obtain credit, vote and find employment. It also helps a child get access to basic health and education services. Having a record of a child's birth is also essential in ensuring that child is accounted for in the protection system. It prevents a child from slipping through the cracks into hazardous child labour, allows for proper age determination in case of juvenile conflicts, avoids recruiting of children into the military, makes countering child marriage more efficient, and helps keep a record of the child and his/her family in case of runaways or lost children.
In 2008 alone, approximately 36% of all births world-wide went unregistered. South Asia has the largest number of unregistered births at about 23 million. This is 63% of all unregistered births in the region and 47% of all unregistered births worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa 55% of the births are not registered. In the Middle East and North Africa, 16% of the children were not registered at birth, while in East Asia and the Pacific, 19% of births were unregistered. According to UNICEF in India only 41% of children under five have been registered at birth. There is a big urban rural difference in registration with 59% of urban children under five being registered at the time of the survey versus only 35% in rural areas.
Every day only 38,000 out of the estimated 70,000 births that occur in the country are registered. Of those registered not all have birth certificates. In India a large number of children in the rural areas are said to have birthdays in May, June or July. This is because parents are unaware of the date of their child's birth and a date is assigned to them when they approach a school for enrolment, which is usually during these months. Effective birth registration in India could counter some other issues such as the dropping sex ratio due to female foeticide and infanticide, and help government plan better effective development programmes. Effective birth registration systems are give better statistics and data about Infant Mortality Rate, Maternal Mortality rate, and Child Sex Ratio.
In India birth registration is decentralised to the state governments who according to the Registration of Birth and Death Act, 1969 create rules and systems whereby birth registration can take place in their jurisdiction. The act calls for a Chief Registrar at the State level, District Registrars at the District level and Registrars at the Registration Centre to carry out the provisions of the act. There is also a Registrar General at the central level to oversee the functioning of all state machinery. Birth registration figures differ greatly across states. Goa, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Punjab and Tamil Nadu and all the Union Territories except Dadra and Nagar Haveli have achieved above 90% registration of births. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have less than 50% registration of births.There are many reasons why birth registration is not carried out effectively in India.
- People do not view it as a right of the child
- Not associated with the child's access to education, healthcare, adulthood employment, etc.
- Lack of infrastructure or political motivation to improve the system
- Lack of awareness about birth registration
- Failure of state to implement legislation
- Poorer families do not have the means to pay for registration
- Gender bias limit the number of girls in the registration process