Innocenti Digest No 9 - Birth Registration: Right from The Start
The child who is not registered at birth is in danger of being shut out of society – denied the right to an official identity, a recognized name and a nationality. In 2000, an estimated 50 million babies – more than two fifths of those born – were unregistered. These children have no birth certificate, the ‘membership card’ for society that should open the door to the enjoyment of a whole range of other rights including education and health care, participation and protection. This Digest examines the situation of children who are denied a fundamental human right and who, in legal terms, do not exist. With no document to prove how old they are – or even who they are – they are likely to join the millions facing discrimination and the lack of access to basic services such as health and education. And, with no proof of age and identity, they may lack the most basic protection against abuse and exploitation. An unregistered child will be a more attractive ‘commodity’ to a child trafficker and does not have even the minimal protection that a birth certificate provides against early marriage, child labour, recruitment in the armed forces or detention and prosecution as an adult. In later life, the unregistered child may be unable to apply for a passport or formal job, open a bank account, get a marriage licence, stand for elective office or vote. The ‘invisibility’ of unregistered children makes it more likely that the discrimination, neglect and abuse they experience will remain unnoticed.