Ghana, Bangladesh and China Tackle Birth Registration

3/7/2010 – Three countries have boosted government efforts to ensure that as many children as possible have their births registered, a fundamental human and child right in the eyes of the United Nations.

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) entitles to each child a right to a nationality. In practice, the realization of this right remains difficult to effect in such countries as Ghana, Bangladesh, and China. Yet, each of these countries has recently taken steps to repair the present situation and maximize child welfare.

Article 7 (1) of the CRC stipulates that each child “shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.”

When children are denied birth registration they lack protection under the law, as they are rendered stateless—without a country of citizenship.  While birth registration is a fundamental right of childhood, the logistical, administrative and financial costs associated with it can impede its realization, which entails the fulfillment of responsibility by both parents and governments.

Ghana’s Stephen Kwaku Amoah, Registrar for Births and Deaths, lamented the reality that about 50% of babies born in Ghana do not receive birth certificates. As in other countries, this can restrict their access to health care, education and other social services.

To beat these challenges, Ghana has implemented a Community Population Registrar Programme. The programme aims to expand vital events (births, deaths, marriages, etc.) registration in 26 communities across the country by integrating services with hospitals and faith-based organizations like churches and mosques.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh is today observing its National Birth Registration Day. Bangladeshi President Zillur Rahman issued a statement underlining the importance of birth registration for the production of accurate data to assist the government in population planning initiatives. Under the banner of this year’s theme—“Birth Certificate is a Right: It's the Responsibility of all to Ensure the Right”—a national programme for free birth registration for children under eighteen years of age has been extended for another year.

And only last month, China recognized some of the human rights difficulties that stemmed from the 1979 One Child Policy. As such, it announced an amnesty period in which families with more than one child (or with children born out of wedlock) will be able to register their children under the “houkou” household registration survey this year. Surveyors will not report the number of children to regional authorities, which usually impose fines on the mothers of “illegal” children. The amnesty period will last from November 2010 to June 2012.