Child rights: Timely registration of children urged

Only 27 per cent of the total births in the country are registered.

Aroosa Shaukat January 01, 2012

LAHORE: A report recently released by UNICEF states that child registration at birth in Pakistan stands at only 27 per cent.

As many as 15 organisations in the Child Rights Movement (Punjab chapter) held an advocacy and awareness session on Sunday to highlight the issue and voice their concern. As many as 30 people attended the session, organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC).

“There is no recognition of a child’s existence unless it is registered,” Rashid Aziz, national manager of SPARC’s legal advisory unit, said. He argued that it was impossible to ensure protection of child rights in the absence of registration of child at birth.

“Numerous issues are linked with this problem,” he said, adding, “How can we protect a child when we don’t know it exists?”

Quoting from a SPARC survey, Aziz said that more than 70 per cent of the children were registered before they turned 18, primarily for enrollment at schools.

“The years before a child is registered as a citizen are the most vulnerable since there is no way in which the state or regulatory body can intervene to ensure the child’s protection”, he said.

Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says a child should be registered ‘immediately after birth.’

Aziz said various researches by SPARC suggested that only 30 per cent of Pakistan’s children were registered immediately after birth.

“Laws exist but there are gaps that hinder their effective implementation,” Aziz said. He said registration fee, requirement for parent ID cards and inability to give a permanent address were major hurdles in birth registrations.

The National Database and Registration Authority Ordinance, 2000 aims to register all people. But the law failed to address the registration of refugee children, abandoned children and children of unidentified parents.

MNA Tasneem Siddiqui, had proposed in April 2010, an amendment in the ordinance seeking addition of a clause asking registration of children such whose parents were not identified.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd,  2012.


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